Oysters don't make a lot of decisions, but they do make some. While still larvae the oysters can walk, and do. They can see (well, tell dark from light, anyway). A baby oyster ("spat") finds a spot it likes, ideally snuggled on top of another oyster, then stakes its claim.
Still not impressed?
If the spat doesn't like its new home, it can change its mind, at least for a few days. It detaches and moves.
Soon after it finds its home, the spat loses its foot and its eye, and life becomes much less complicated. Either open the shell and feed, or clam up.
A few years ago, some spats settled on our local jetty. Saturday I gathered a couple dozen grown-up oysters (and a few crabs and mussels as well), shucked them, and ate them. (A tiny, assertive crab no larger than my thumbnail was returned alive to the sea by Leslie.)
My left hand is a bit chewed up from the sharp shells. I bled a bit on the jetty, and a little bit more when shucking them. A couple of the tiny lacerations are slightly inflamed--my white cells will take care of the invaders.
The more I learn about oysters, the harder they are to eat, and the more delicious they become. We have both evolved from common ancestors. We both need oxygen. We both need to eat in order to live.
This oyster connection gets complicated, too complicated to understand. We both are here (well, were here) together. I will join the critters that were in less than a lifetime.
This morning I returned the shells to the bay--a few still held remnants of the sweet (though now rotting) flesh of my meal. That flesh has already been consumed, maybe by a crab, maybe by a lethargic striper just off the beach.
No way to know the particulars. 14 billion years ago something happened. It's still happening.
I don't know why I am part of it, and science won't (can't) tell me. Still, I'm happy to be part of it.
Slurping down live creatures is an abomination in a civilized world, but it makes me feel more alive.
My hope as a science teacher is to get a child as passionate about anything alive as I am about oysters, alive but not human. We think we are special, and we are.
But so is the oyster.
Photo by Leslie, who sees things I can't.