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Japan Today

December 22, 2011

Oysters May "Tell" Us about Ecological Changes


Oyster is one of the well-known winter seafood. It has low calorie and provides us with protein, zinc, vitamin B-12, and other nutrients. Fresh raw, steamed, scalloped, and fried padded oysters are examples of popular oyster recipes around the world. There is no doubt that many people enjoy having these delicious oyster dishes on their dining tables. 

In addition to serve as food, the pearls that oysters produced are usually used for making costume accessories, precious jewels, and skin care products as well. Researchers in Japan have amazingly discovered a new approach of using oysters in environmental science, and these scientists believe that oysters can tell us the changes occurred in their living environment.

Researchers at the Seto Inland Sea Regional Research Center in Kagawa University developed a device nicknamed “Kai-lingual” in order to interpret oyster movements that might warn us about potential environmental problems. “Kai” means shellfish in Japanese language. Scientists believe that the opening and closing of shellfish like oyster are in response to the changes in seawater, such as red tide, a suffocating algal boom, and diminishing oxygen.

According to the scientists of this research project, “Kai-lingual” is equipped a series of sensors and magnets to transmit information about oysters’ opening and closing of shells in response to environmental changes. Although this technique has never been conducted in farmed food oysters, it has been already used by pearl oyster growers. By placing pearl oysters among food oysters, they can be perfect indicators for farmers to monitor changes in seawater. As a result, this device allows farmers to react quickly on environmental changes and prevent oysters from mass die-offs.