Oysters are commonly found on rocky shores along China's northern coast, although there is considerable confusion as to what species they are. To determine the taxonomic status of these oysters, we collected specimens from nine locations north of the Yangtze River and conducted genetic identification using DNA sequences. Fragments from three genes, mitochondrial 16S rRNA, mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase I (COI), and nuclear 28S rRNA, were sequenced in six oysters from each of the nine sites. Phylogenetic analysis of all three gene fragments clearly demonstrated that the small oysters commonly found on intertidal rocks in north China are Crassostrea gigas (Thunberg, 1793), not C. plicatula (the zhe oyster) as widely assumed. Their small size and irregular shell characteristics are reflections of the stressful intertidal environment they live in and not reliable characters for classification. Our study confirms that the oysters from Weifang, referred to as Jinjiang oysters or C. rivularis (Gould, 1861), are C. ariakensis (Wakiya, 1929). We found no evidence for the existence of C. talienwhanensis (Crosse, 1862) and other Crassostrea species in north China. Our study highlights the need for reclassifying oysters of China with molecular data.
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