Virginia Institute of Marine Science
Proceedings of the National Shellfisheries Association
Fresh water invaded the upper half of James River seed area in winter and spring of 1958. Many oysters died between 1 May and 15 ·June. On some grounds, salinities did not become suitable until l July when temperature had reached 23°c. Death rates of native oysters were as high as 90 percent.
Oysters exposed to fresh water from midwinter were "conditioned" to a low physiological state as evidenced by absence of heart beat, ciliary motion and mantle sensitivity when first opened. Oysters held in trays at one extremity of the seed area withstood fresh-water conditions similarly to oysters on natural bottom--in accordance with their previous history of exposure. Oysters in pans of fresh.well water at the Laboratory endured unsuitable conditions for similar periods as those in James River.
Once broken, the "conditioned" state could not be regained at temperatures favoring activity. Apparently slow conditioning of oysters at low salinities and at low temperatures induces a state of "narcosis" which permits conservation of food supply and evasion of effects of temperature rises. This lasts only as long as closure is continuously enforced by fresh water or other factors.
Andrews, Jay D.; Haven, Dexter; and Quayle, D. B., Fresh-Water Kill Of Oysters (Crassostrea virginica) In James River, Virginia, 1958 (1959). Proceedings of the National Shellfisheries Association, 49, 29-49.