Despite the interest in restoring remnant populations of the Olympia oyster, Ostrea lurida Carpenter 1864,† little is known about connectivity among populations. Identifying the sources of settling larvae could broaden our understanding of the degree to which particular populations are reliant on their neighbors for their persistence. Calcified structures such as the otoliths of fish and statoliths of invertebrates are increasingly being exploited as useful “natural tags” that help track individual movements and, when applicable to larvae, could help to pinpoint important source populations. In controlled laboratory culturing experiments, we explored the prospects for using the chemistry of larval shells (prodissoconchs) as natural tags of larval source by examining whether larval shells record shifts in seawater element chemistry, whether larval shells undergo ontogenetic shifts in element uptake, and whether the chemistry of the shell formed during brooding is compromised by subsequent shell thickening during the planktonic phase. Results from a two-way ANOVA examining the effect of seawater element concentration and ontogeny showed that element/ Ca in the shell increased in response to increasing seawater elemental concentrations for Ba, Ce, Pb, and Mn, whereas shell Cu/Ca did not change. Ostrea lurida shell chemistry also showed strong ontogenetic shifts in element/Ca for Mg, Sr, and Cu during the transition from larva to settler. Settler shell Mg/Ca strongly increased compared with planktonic shell, whereas Sr/Ca and Cu/Ca showed the opposite pattern. Further, the chemistry of the shell formed during brooding (at the birth location) did change as a function of environmental conditions experienced during the planktonic phase for the elements Ba and Ce, but that change was limited to regions of the brooded shell just adjacent to the planktonic shell. When the brooded portions of larval shells were sampled closer to the umbo, the brooded shells' chemistry remains intact. The combined results suggest that larval Ostrea lurida shells act as recorders of environmental change and show promise as tools to track larval movements.
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Vol. 28 • No. 1