Document Type



Virginia Institute of Marine Science

Publication Date



Journal of Shellfish Research





First Page


Last Page



Survival. growth and pathology of juvenile oysters. Crassostrea virginica. in off-bottom culture at Oyster Bay and Fishers Island, New York, were monitored during the summer of 1991 to document and help explain the episodic mass mortalities of cultured seed oysters that have occurred in the northeastern USA over the past several years. Al Oyster Bay. where the more detailed study was conducted. 54 to 7So/o losses affected several 1991 cohorts at mean shell heights ranging from IS to 24 mm, within 3 to 6V, weeks of transfer from the hatchery to growout trays. Mortalities occurred in July and August, at temperatures between 22 and 25°C, and were reduced significantly at low stocking densiucs. Deaths were associated with reduced tissue and shell growth. reduced condition index, mantle retraction, the deposition of an abnom1al conchiolin layer on the inner shell, and lesions of the mantle surface. No obvious pathogen was identified in soft tissues or shells by light or electron microscopy. The pathology suggested that a LOitin-producing agent of bacterial or microalgal origin. or chemical contaminant. caused mantle retraction and secretion of anomalous conchiolin as a defense mechanism. Two potential agents were recognized. Bacteria were found in mantle lesions and within the abnormal conchiolin sheet, but not consistently and with <30% prevalence; il is not clear whether these were primary or secondary invaders. Blooms of a large dinoflagellate, Gymnmodium sanguineum. occurred at peak densities of 5 x I 05 cells 1- 1 at the time of initial oyster mortalities. although the species is not known to be toxic to bivalves. Follow up studies are planned to identify the etiological agent and culture methods that minimize losses


Crassostrea virgi11ica, juvenile oysters, mortal ities