The species on this page are typical of north Florida oyster reefs. Dr. David Kimbro, Dr. Randall Hughes, and their colleagues are conducting an NSF funded study into predators and predator effects on oyster reefs. In addition, Dr. David Kimbro and his graduate student, Hanna Garland, are researching the drought-stricken oyster reefs of Apalachicola Bay. Included in the descriptions of species are links to blog posts related to both studies.
American Oyster (Crassostrea virginica) also known as the Eastern Oyster
Like the smooth cordgrass is the foundational species of a salt marsh, the oysters that comprise a reef create an ecosystem. Click to expand
Like the smooth cordgrass is the foundational species of a salt marsh, the oysters that comprise a reef create an ecosystem. Oysters can grow on any hard surface in the intertidal zone, though larval oysters tend to seek out the chemical signature of other oysters, landing on their shells. Once a larval oyster recruits to a surface, it is called spat. As oysters build their shells on other oyster’s shells, they create a reef structure which benefits the oysters as well as the many species that seek refuge within it.
They provide shelter for a number of predators and prey, and themselves are prey of animals like the mud crab and the oyster drill (and humans). The oyster is a filter feeder, consuming phytoplankton swimming in the water. Through that process, the oyster removes nitrogen from the water, potentially preventing algal blooms that harm other marine animals.
The oysters studied in David and Randall’s NSF study are intertidal, meaning that they are exposed at low tide. These tend to grow smaller than subtidal oysters like those in Apalachicola Bay, which remain submerged and are commercially harvested.
Hardhead Catfish (Arius felis)
In north Florida, catfish are dominant predators in the oyster reef ecosystem. Click to expand
Toadfish (Opsanus tau)also known as the ugly toad and the oyster cracker
The toadfish is a primary predator of mud crabs on the North Carolina reefs where Dr. David Kimbro and Dr. Randall Hughes began their research careers. Click to expand
These omnivores grow between 30-38 cm, and prefer to eat crabs such as hermits and mud crabs.
The toadfish is a primary predator of mud crabs on the North Carolina reefs where Dr. David Kimbro and Dr. Randall Hughes began their research careers. Though toadfish are native to Florida waters, Hardhead and Sail Catfish are more usually the dominant predator of north Florida reefs.
Blue Crab (Callinectes sapidus)
A popular delicacy in this habitat is the blue crab, which is the crab used to make Maryland crab cakes. Click to Expand
A popular delicacy in this habitat is the blue crab, which is the crab used to make Maryland crab cakes. Increasingly, Maryland imports their crabs from Florida, which has more robust habitats for them. On oyster reefs and in salt marshes, blue crabs are important predators that help control populations of oyster drills, mud crabs, and periwinkle snails.
Stone Crab (Menippe mercenaria)
Stone crabs have strong, meaty claws that are used to crush oysters. Click to expand
Atlantic Oyster Drill (Urosalpinx cinerea)
Oyster drills use their radula to bore holes into oysters and clams. Click to expand
Oyster drills use their radula to bore holes into oysters and clams. This species is found on the Kimbro/ Hughes sites on Florida’s Atlantic coast. The larger southern oyster drill has become a problem in Apalachicola Bay.
Southern Oyster Drill (Thais haemastoma)
This oyster drill species is a problem in commercial oyster fisheries, and large numbers have been found in Apalachicola Bay. Click to Expand.
David Kimbro presents his team’s findings regarding oyster predators in Apalachicola Bay. Click here here for more.
Banded Tulip (Fasciolaria hunteria)
The banded tulip is a predator that feed on oysters as well as bivalves such as clams. Click to Expand
Mud Crab (Panopeus sp.)
Panopeus species range in size from the miniscule herbstrii to larger individuals closer in size to stone crabs. Click to expand
Other Species In & Around the Reef
Black Drum (Pogonias cromis)
The largest of the drum family, the black drum is common in brackish waters such as those in which oyster reefs are found. Click to Expand
Pinfish (Lagodon rhomboides)
The pinfish gets its name from the sharp spines in its dorsal fin. Click to expand
Red Drum(Sciaenops ocellatus) also known as Redfish, Channel Bass, Spottail Bass, or Reds
The red drum is a popular catch for the sport fisherman, and is widely consumed by humans. Click to expand
Red Snapper (Lutjanus campechanus)
As juveniles, red snapper often use oyster reefs for refuge. Click to expand
Snapping Shrimp (Alpheidae family)
Snapping shrimp are known for their claws which make a “popping” sound that can be heard on intertidal oyster reefs. Click to expand
Striped mullet (Mugil cephalus)
Striped mullet is an international fish, found along coastlines of every continent except Antarctica. Click to expand
Thinstripe Hermit Crab (Clibinarius vittatus)
Hermit crabs occupy gastropod shells of all kinds, either finding them empty or attacking occupied shells. Click to Expand.
Hermit crabs occupy gastropod shells of all kinds, either finding them empty or attacking occupied shells. Dr. David Kimbro’s graduate student, Hanna Garland, had noticed that they were often a predator of crown conchs in the oyster reefs south of Saint Augustine. Those reefs had been overrun with the conchs. Read more about Hanna Garland’s Hermit Crab/Crown Conch Cage Matches here.
Find yearly landings for commercial fisheries in Florida here.