The eastern oyster [Crassostrea virginica (Gmelin, 1791)] is an important epibenthic species in estuarine and coastal marine ecosystems, providing habitat for commercially valuable species and enhancing ecosystem function. One way to assess oyster population structure and the potential suitability of oyster restoration sites is through deployment of adult oyster shells or other substrates, and quantifying oyster spat settlement. The suitability of travertine tiles versus axenic adult oyster shells for C. virginica settlement was compared by deploying shellstrings with tiles and shells in four different locations across two seasons (fall or spring) in the subtropical, Loxahatchee River estuary, FL. There was no significant difference in spat densities on oyster shells compared with tile tops and bottoms, although there was significant spatial and temporal variation in spat settlement. Spat were slightly more abundant on the top of deployed tiles compared with the bottom, which differs from typical C. virginica settlement behavior. One possible explanation may be the presence of other fouling organisms on the bottom of tiles which decrease oyster settlement rates. Results show that oyster spat settlement was indistinguishable between travertine tiles and oyster shells and thus suggest that travertine tiles are preferable to axenic oyster shells because spat settlement can be precisely quantified per unit area.
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Vol. 34 • No. 3