Oyster reef at low tide

An oyster reef at low tide.

Many people will be stuffing their stomachs with oyster dressing this Thanksgiving. Here is an oyster quiz to stuff your brain. Answers are below.

1. According to the fossil record, how long have oysters been around?

A. About 120 million years

B. About 180 million years

C. About 240 million years

D. About 300 million years

2. When/where did someone first create a hydraulic system to support “oyster farming”?

A. Ancient China

B. Roman Empire

C. Medieval Europe

D. Mediterranean Renaissance

3. Capt. John Smith wrote in the early 1600s that Chesapeake oysters “lay as thick as stones.” Due to overharvesting, habitat loss and pollution, their population has plummeted. Today’s Bay oyster population is estimated to be what percent of the population in Smith’s time?

A. 1%

B. 3%

C. 7%

D. 10%

4. An oyster can grow up to 14 inches in length. As a rule, an oyster grows how many inches in a year?

A. 1

B. 2

C. 3

D. 4

5. Oysters grow faster in:

A. High salinity water

C. Low salinity water

D. Fresh water

E. None of the above; they grow equally in all water.

6. As a rule, the top shell of a wild oyster is flatter while the bottom shell is more cupped. What factor most determines the shape of an oyster?

A. The salinity of the water

B. The mineral content of the water 

C. The number of other oysters crowded around it

D. The water temperature 

7. Not all oysters taste the same. What is/are the greatest factors in an oyster’s flavor?

A. The oyster’s species

B. The amount of salt, nutrients and acidity of the water where the oyster lives

C. The age and size of the oyster

D. The shape of the oyster

8. Oysters are considered less tasty when they spawn. As a rule, when do they spawn?

A. Months with the letter “R” in them

B. Months without the letter “R” in them

9. Oysters suck in water, eat the phytoplankton it contains, then spit out the filtered water, cleaning the water around them. How many gallons of water can one oyster filter in a day?

A. 25

B. 50

C. 75

D. 100

10. Match these parts of an oyster with their description.






A. These are made of tiny hairs covered in mucus. The oyster pumps water and waterborne particles throughout this part. Then the mucus traps food particles.

B. This is the name for the tiny hairs that trap food when the oyster draws water.

C. This is the part of the oyster’s mouth that sorts the particles in the mucus, keeping only the food and spitting out the rest.

D. This thin layer of tissue surrounds the oyster’s body and plays a role in the development of its shell.

E. This is the muscle the oyster uses to keep its shell closed. When it is gone, it leaves a purple scar.

11. Oyster reefs can be a natural barrier against storm waves and sea level rise — reducing damage from storms by decreasing erosion and floods. How much wave energy can an oyster reef absorb?

A. Up to 32%

B. Up to 48%

C. Up to 67%

D. Up to 93%

12. Many oysters change their gender at least once in their life. Which of these is generally true?

A. Most oysters up to 1 year old are male, and most older oysters are female.

B. Most oysters up to 1 year old are female, and most older oysters are male.

C. Most oysters are male in cold months and female in warm months.

D. Most oysters are female in cold months and male in warm months.


1. B   2. B   3. A   4. A   5. A   6. C   7. B   8. B   9. B   10: A Gills   B. Cilia   C. Palps   D. Mantle   E. Adductor   11. D   12. A


Kathleen Gaskell is the Bay Journal's copy and layout editor and author of the Chesapeake Challenge. Contact Kathleen at kgaskell@bayjournal.com.

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