Marine Biology

, 163:218 | Cite as

Eastern oyster, Crassostrea virginica, valve gape behavior under diel-cycling hypoxia

Original paper


Hypoxia and anoxia in many estuaries worldwide can cause a wide range of negative effects on animals that are directly exposed or indirectly influenced by food web interactions. Typically, experimental studies focus on animal behavior as a function of continuous exposure to low dissolved oxygen (DO) conditions rather than short-term fluctuations. Dissolved oxygen concentrations [DO] can, however, vary throughout the day, and water can become hypoxic for minutes to hours, often during the late night/early morning hours in the summer. Valve gape of 1-year-old eastern oysters, Crassostrea virginica, from Maryland, USA, was continuously measured while exposed to diel-cycling DO in aquaria during normoxic, hypoxic, and supersaturated phases of the cycle over several 2-day periods (July–August 2012). Severe hypoxia (0.6 mg DO L−1) induced oysters to close for significantly longer times than normoxic (7.3 mg DO L−1) conditions. Oysters exposed to mild hypoxia (1.7 mg DO L−1) closed for a similar amount of time as oysters held at normoxia and severe hypoxia. At severe hypoxia, more than one-third of the oysters closed simultaneously and closed immediately when they encountered severe hypoxia while oysters at mild hypoxia often closed later in the low oxygen phase of the cycles. When normoxia was reintroduced after severe hypoxia, most oysters opened immediately and gaped throughout the period. The results indicate that while 1-year-old oysters responded negatively to diel-cycling low [DO], especially to severe hypoxia, they rapidly opened during the normoxic period that followed, potentially reducing any negative effects of a fluctuating environment.


Dissolve Oxygen Bivalve Severe Hypoxia Valve Closure Crassostrea Virginica 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We thank Andrew Keppel, Virginia Clark, and Rebecca Burrell for maintaining the diel cycling hypoxia conditions throughout this experiment. We thank F. Scott Porter who built the valve gape apparatus. Oysters were purchased from Marinetics, Cambridge, Maryland. The hypoxia experiments were funded by a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – Center for Sponsored Coastal Ocean Research grant No. NA10NOS4780138 and by the Smithsonian Hunterdon Fund to Denise Breitburg. The valve gape measurements during the hypoxia experiments were funded by a Faculty Enhancement Grant by Washington College to Elka T. Porter. We would also like to thank three anonymous reviewers for valuable suggestions that improved the manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

Author Elka T. Porter declares that she has no conflict of interest. Author Denise L. Breitburg declares that she has no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed. This article does not contain any studies with human participants performed by any of the authors.

Supplementary material

227_2016_2980_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (23 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 23 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Yale Gordon College of Arts and SciencesUniversity of BaltimoreBaltimoreUSA
  2. 2.Smithsonian InstitutionEdgewaterUSA

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