A modelling study of the influence of environment and food supply on survival of Crassostrea gigas larvae

Eileen E. Hofmann, Eric N. Powell, Eleanor A. Bochenek, John M. Klinck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


A biochemically based model was developed to simulate the growth, development, and metamorphosis of larvae of the Pacific oyster (Crassostrea gigas). The unique characteristics of the model are that it: (1) defines larvae in terms of their protein, neutral lipid, polar lipid, carbohydrate, and ash content; (2) tracks weight separately from length to follow larval condition; and (3) includes genetic variation in growth efficiency and egg quality to better simulate cohort population dynamics. The model includes parameterizations for filtration, ingestion, and respiration, which determine larval growth rate, and processes controlling larval mortality and metamorphosis. Changes in larval tissue composition occur as the larva grows and in response to the biochemical composition of the food. Simulations of larval growth indicate that departures of temperature, salinity, or food content from optimum levels reduce larval cohort survival, either because of metabolic constraints that result in death, unsuccessful metamorphosis, or increased predation resulting from increased larval lifespan. Temperatures and salinities near optimal values improve larval survival at low food concentration by increasing ingestion rate or growth efficiency. Also, survival at a given food concentration can vary widely depending on food composition, which determines food quality. The simulations suggest that the ratio of carbohydrate+lipid-to-protein may best describe the overall food quality, with optimal food compositions being characterized by ratios near 1.2 to 1.4 over a range of food concentrations. In contrast, food compositions containing too much or too little protein reduce larval survival, even at saturating food concentrations. In simulations emphasizing genetic variability within the cohort, larvae with high growth efficiency originating from large eggs out-perform other egg quality-growth efficiency combinations over a wide range of temperature, salinity, and food contents. As a consequence, suboptimal temperature, salinity, or food content compresses genetic variation by uniformly favouring larvae from large eggs with a high growth efficiency. However, the larval survival obtained from simulations that use a range of food qualities is representative of a much broader range of genetic types. Thus, the simulations support the supposition that food quality is an important variable controlling the survival and genetic variability of C. gigas larval cohorts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)596-616
Number of pages21
JournalICES Journal of Marine Science
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jun 2004

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oceanography
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology


  • Crassostrea gigas larvae
  • bivalve larvae models
  • food quality


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