OK, now that I’ve got your attention, this post isn’t exactly about racy liaisons between shellfish.
I toured the state’s oyster hatchery for a quick little feature on how the operation works. The hatchery creates baby oysters that are planted in the Chesapeake Bay in an attempt to restore the decimated oyster population.
In selling the story to my editors, I said that basically I’d be explaining how oyster sex works in the lab.
That stuck, and ended up in my story. One of my editors added in the “50 Shades of Grey” reference for more fun.
It really is a serious, multi-million-dollar effort that so far has limited success. But we can have a little fun once in a while, right?
For those actually interested in the reproductive oyster biology, here’s how it works. When the water gets warm enough in the summer, the males shoot out sperm into the water and the females release eggs. The sperm and eggs meet up while floating around in the water and the sperm fertilizes the egg.
Eventually, the fertilized egg will grow large enough to become larvae and then attach to an existing oyster or oyster shell, where they’ll live forever. Now they’re called spat, until they grow into actual oysters that you’d recognize.
Check out the quick video I made, which shows an oyster shooting its sperm into the water: