Who decided that eating oysters was a good idea?

Archaeologists have found evidence that oysters provided an important food source as early as 10,000 years ago.

Oysters were cultivated in Japan first
April 26, 2018

Oyster chow-down

Somebody must have been hungry to eat the first oyster As the plate of raw oysters is delivered to the table, and the person who ordered the dish offers to share the bounty, the comment you almost always hear goes something like this: “Enjoy, but I can’t eat them. Too nasty looking!” Or this: “Somebody long ago must have been really hungry to try that!”

And as it turns out, folks have been hungry for oysters for a long time. Archaeologists have found evidence that oysters provided an important food source as early as 10,000 years ago in Australia. They were cultivated in Japan from at least 2000 BC. And the ancient Romans practiced oyster farming as early as the 1st century BC.

Bottom line, people were apparently hungry enough to overlook the unusual look of an oyster! However it’s not just the look of the oyster that is unusual. That’s because oysters are protandric; they switch from male to female. During their first year, they spawn as males by releasing sperm into the water. As they grow over the next two or three years and develop greater energy reserves, they spawn as females by releasing eggs. 

An increase in water temperature prompts a few oysters to spawn. That’s usually in the range of 74F-86F. It only takes one male oyster to release its sperm to encourage others to commence spawning.

Once the process begins, the water is clouded with millions of eggs and sperm. A single female oyster can produce up to 100 million eggs annually. The eggs become fertilized in the water and develop into larvae, which eventually find suitable sites, such as another oyster's shell, on which to settle.

—Frank Graff 

Frank Graff is a producer/reporter with UNC-TV, focusing on Sci Tech Now North Carolina, a weekly science series that airs Tuesdays on UNC-TV. In addition to producing these special segments, Frank will provide additional information related to his stories through this North Carolina Science Now Reporter's Blog!


Related Resources:

Video: Meet one of North Carolina's first oyster farmers!