Life isn’t easy for a tiny baby oyster.
Because they are so small and defenseless without a fully formed shell, oyster babies are often gobbled up by other marine life.
To ensure the survival of their species, oysters respond to this threat by ejaculating ungodly numbers of sperm and eggs into the water (where the gametes mix and form oyster embryos).
Every season, an adult female oyster can produce 50 to 100 million eggs. Males produce so much sperm that it’s basically uncountable. “Sperm counts … certainly range into the tens of billions,” Allen says. “They are maybe the most fecund of species on the planet.”
Now consider this: An oyster reef can house around 100 to 500 oysters per 10 square feet. An acre of a healthy oyster reef can house 600,000 of them, and some oyster reefs can stretch hundreds of acres. Let’s just say there aren’t enough digits on a standard calculator to determine how much oyster sperm that is.
3) Oysters can change gender multiple times throughout their lives
Almost all oysters start out their lives as male, but as they grow larger, many of them will switch genders. (Because there’s so much more sperm than eggs, this helps ensure a growing oyster population.)
And occasionally they can have both sex organs at the same time. Allen says how this happens isn’t well-understood, but they seem to change genders based on environmental factors. It’s possible that the gender determination is influenced by water temperature and by the relative health of the oyster reef (more productive reefs favor females). But “nobody really knows what the mechanism is,” Allen says.
Also, never ever ever ever put freaking cocktail sauce on your oysters. A squeeze of lemon is all the need. Or some other vinegary substance if you are getting fancy. But you might as well dip them in straight ketchup if you are using cocktail sauce.