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How can you tell a male oyster from a female oyster?

Merton Vance

First of all, you cannot tell if it’s a female oyster by looking for one wearing pearls.

From the outside, it’s impossible to tell whether an oyster is a he or a she.

This, according to The Great Scallop and Oyster Cookbook:

“There is no way of telling male oysters from females by examining their shells. While oysters have separate sexes, they may change sex one or more times during their life span. The gonads, organs responsible for producing both eggs and sperm, surround the digestive organs and are made up of sex cells, branching tubules and connective tissue.”

For more: www.globalgourmet.com/food/egg/egg0298/oyfacts.html

Oh, and by the way, about the pearls.

While oysters that we eat can form pearls, they shouldn’t be confused with real pearl oysters, which are from a separate family of bivalves.

This, according to National Geographic:

“True oysters, which belong to the Ostreidae family, are found throughout the world’s oceans, usually in shallow waters and in colonies called beds or reefs. Among the most popular and heavily harvested species are the Eastern American oyster (Crassostrea virginica), found in Atlantic waters from Canada to Argentina, and the Pacific oyster (Crassostrea gigas), found from Japan to Washington state and as far south as Australia.”

For more information: animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/invertebrates/oyster/

According to the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries:

“Oysters are bivalve mollusks that can live up to 40 years and grow up to eight inches; however, most N.C. oysters are harvested at three years of age, at the minimum harvest size of three inches. In the early stages of an oyster’s life, it is carried about by currents. As it matures, the oyster sinks to the bottom. To survive, the oyster must land on a hard surface. That is why they are found growing together in clumps or rocks.”

“The status of the oyster fishery in N.C. is “concern”. Increased fishing pressure and stock declines caused by diseases, poor water quality and habitat loss, have led to the collapse of this once prosperous fishery.”

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User-contributed question by:
Gary Trawick
Gary Trawick
Gary Trawick
Gary Trawick

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2 Responses to “ How can you tell a male oyster from a female oyster?”

  1. On March 28, 2010 at 7:49 am Don Cooke wrote:

    Oysters (locally) tend to go from male to female as they get larger. Contact Dr. Martin Posey, UNC-W.

  2. On May 5, 2015 at 6:13 pm Tricia Korie wrote:

    Can’t you just show me a picture difference from male, female, and real-pearl oysters or something?
    Puh-lease. *Eye Roll*

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