Morphological Assessment of the Eastern Oyster Crassostrea virginica throughout the Gulf of Mexico
Pollack, Jennifer Beseres
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The eastern oyster Crassostrea virginica is a commercially and ecologically important organism found throughout the western North Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. Morphological differences in shell shape of eastern oysters are known to arise from environmental, genetic, and husbandry-related factors. Here, live eastern oysters were collected from 17 sites along the U.S. Gulf of Mexico coast from Texas to Florida to examine morphological differences among geographic samples. Six morphological metrics were recorded for each individual, and four different composite ratios commonly used to describe oyster shape (fan, cup, volume ratio, and weight ratio) were calculated. Principal component analysis was used to demonstrate geographic differences in ordinated shape ratios, correlating roughly with eastern (Florida), northern (Alabama, Louisiana, north Texas), and western (south Texas) samples. In Texas, differences in shape were correlated with previously described genetic population boundaries, indicating that populations north versus south of Aransas Bay had different overall shell shapes. On a broader scale, shell shape variation correlated roughly with previously described genetic population boundaries throughout the Gulf of Mexico as well as tide depth (intertidal versus subtidal reefs). Among the various factors that might act as drivers of shell shape, individual variation is important, but population structure and tide height are also significant predictor variables of shape in this species.