Parity and disparity between two Chama oysters: the reproductive biology of the Indo-Pacific C. pacifica Broderip, invasive to the Mediterranean Sea; and C. savignyi Lamy, indigenous to the Red Sea


Yehuda Benayahu, Department of Zoology, Tel-Aviv University, Ramat-Aviv, Tel-Aviv 69978, Israel.


The Indo-Pacific oyster Chama pacifica Broderip, 1835 (Mollusca, Bivalvia, Chamidae) is rarely found in the Northern Red Sea reefs of Eilat (Gulf of Aqaba), where it is outnumbered by its indigenous congener, Chama savignyi Lamy, 1921. The influx of Eritrean biota from the Red Sea into the Mediterranean Sea via the Suez Canal has led to the formation of massive Chama oyster beds along the Eastern Mediterranean shore. However, unlike the Northern Red Sea, the Eastern Mediterranean Chama beds are dominated by C. pacifica oysters, whereas C. savignyi is absent from this region. In an attempt to understand this difference in their respective distribution, the reproductive biology of both species was compared. Histological analysis of the male and female gonads, monitored monthly from March 2009 to August 2010 in both regions, revealed a similar reproductive cycle, comprising six stages: onset of gametogenesis, advanced gametogenesis, ripe, ready to spawn, spent and sexual rest. Female gonads demonstrated an additional, seventh stage – restoration, coinciding with inferred spawning of ripe gametes. Both species were found to be dioecious spawners, with a single, annual, temperature-dependent inferred spawning period. Chama pacifica was found to reproduce efficiently in maximal Mediterranean seawater temperatures not experienced by the Northern Red Sea Chama populations. This study demonstrates the high invasive potential of an oyster species despite its rarity in its source region.