Digestion in oysters

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The Eastern oyster (Crassotrea virginica) is a marine bivalve mollusk. Eastern oysters populate the Atlantic coastal waters of North America and the West Indies. Oysters form beds by rereleasing spawn that settle and mature on or near existing oysters. Oyster beds serve dually as social structures and physical structures for habitation. Like many other bivalves, oysters are filter feeders, and they subsist on phytoplankton. Eastern oyster reproduction is synchronized to occur in early spring in anticipation of algal blooms that follow later in the season. Oysters have developed anatomical structures and physiological processes that are highly specialized to filter particles from the water surrounding them.

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Section 1 Genetics

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Section 2 Microbiome

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Several recent studies have sought to observe the microbiomes of Eastern oysters and to explore what role the microbiome plays in health and metabolism within the oyster. Studies have shown Eastern oysters to have microbiomes with bacterial compositions distinct from the surrounding soil environment. In fact, one study found distinct microbiomes exist between the stomach and intestinal organs within the same organisms. The same study also found significant difference between phylogenetic compositions of the microbiomes of two geographically separated Eastern oyster populations, one sampled from Hackberry Bay, LA and the other from Lake Caillou, LA. It is not understood at this time whether the difference in phylogenetic composition of oyster microbiomes contributes to a difference in symbiotic function of the microbiome, or whether the microbiome is necessary for any regular metabolic function within oysters. Further research is needed to determine what role, if any, oyster microbiomes play in digestion.


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Edited by [David Hamilton], student of Joan Slonczewski for BIOL 116 Information in Living Systems, 2019, Kenyon College.