The Suminoe oyster (Crassostrea ariakensis) is being considered for introduction into the Chesapeake Bay. However, our current understanding of the biology and ecology of C. ariakensis is insufficient to predict whether an introduction will be successful, provide desired benefits, or have adverse impacts. Behavior of native Eastern oyster (C. virginica) pediveligers has been studied for many years and it is well established that they use a variety of habitat characteristics when selecting a site for colonization. Perhaps the most important of these are chemical cues emitted by adult conspecifics, which can lead to gregarious larval settlement and dense, persistent reef communities. Conversely, almost nothing is known about the mechanisms that regulate larval settlement and metamorphosis for C. ariakensis or how pediveligers might respond to conditions found in Chesapeake Bay. In a comparative study with C. virginica, we examined how environmental factors such as substrate type, natural biofilms, sediment and waterborne chemical cues influence larval settlement for two C. ariakensis strains (“south China” and “west coast”). Our results demonstrate many similarities but also potentially important differences. Both species and strains of larvae greatly prefer natural substrates (e.g., shell) covered with biofilms for colonization but the west coast strain of C. ariakensis exhibited greater attachment onto manmade substrates (e.g., fiberglass) than C. virginica. Waterborne chemical cues emitted by adult oysters were also found to enhance substrate attachment for all larval forms but cues do not appear to be species specific. These results provide critical insight to the ability of C. ariakensis larvae to identify and colonize suitable substrates in the Chesapeake Bay, which will have a large impact on recruitment success and their ability to establish self-sustaining populations.
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