Do Oysters Move? (EXPLAINED)

Most people slurp an oyster while it’s still alive or freshly killed or shucked. This is usually done to preserve its flavor and nutrients. The thought of eating something alive can create many ideas in your head, such as whether it’s moving. You don’t want to swallow something like that. So, do oysters move?

Yes, oysters move, but only for a short part of their lives. This happens during the first few days or weeks after developing into free-swimming larvae. During this time, they develop a “foot,” which they use to move inside the water until they can attach themselves to a surface. Once this happens, they remain in their bed throughout their remaining lifespan. 

Understanding how oysters reproduce is key to knowing how their colonies or beds are formed. Today, we will look at what movement means to oysters, why they move, how they move, and some factors that can affect their movement. 

Do Oysters Move

Do Oysters Move When You Eat Them?

No, they don’t! Mature oysters don’t move, not even after they’ve been killed or stuck. 

Most oyster plates at restaurants consist of freshly killed or shucked oysters. Sometimes, they may still be alive, but even then, they can’t move. The only thing that moves is your mouth when you dredge on them. 

As earlier indicated, live or freshly killed oysters are preferred because of they taste better and maintain their nutrient density. They are also easily digested.

Having said that, you might notice that the muscle of a freshly prepared oyster contract when exposed to certain substances, such as lemon juice. This can create the illusion of movement, but it’s just a natural response to the acidity of the juice. The oyster is no longer alive!

Understanding Mobility In Oysters

As earlier indicated, to understand mobility in oysters, you have to be familiar with their procreation process. Unlike most animals, oysters are born as hermaphrodites. Most of them begin as males and later transform into females within a few years. Some are sequential hermaphrodites and change their sex yearly. 

Telling which gender an oyster is might be the hardest thing anyone could do.  

Oysters generally reproduce through spawning, where millions of eggs and sperm are released into the water. Fertilization takes place, and larval oysters are formed and move with the current of the water. 

At one point, the free-swimming larvae develop hard shells and begin to settle toward the bottom of the oven. Then, they develop an eye and foot, which they use to move over rocks, sand, and other surfaces. Usually, they release the foot in front of the shell, using it to grab onto the ocean floor or any other surface, and then pull themselves along. 

Once an oyster finds a suitable location (rock, pier, driftwood, empty oyster shell, another oyster, etc.), it will attach itself to it and no longer move. 

Sometimes, oysters can settle on top of each other. This is how reefs are formed. 

How Do Oysters Move?

In this section, let’s go into more detail on how oysters move. 

Oysters are part of the bivalve mollusk family, which means they have two shells connected by a hinge. They move using their byssus, a group of strong, elastic threads that anchor them to a surface. 

Their movement pattern is described as follows:

Opening and closing the shells

Oysters can open and close their shells by contracting and relaxing their adductor muscles. This action helps them adjust their position and maintain stability.

Producing byssus

Oysters secrete a sticky substance called byssal threads from their byssal gland. The byssal threads harden in seawater, forming a strong, flexible anchor to attach the oyster to surfaces like rocks, reefs, or other oysters.


Using their foot, a muscular organ used for locomotion, oysters can slowly “creep” across surfaces. This movement is quite slow, as oysters typically move at a pace of a few millimeters per day.

How Often Do Oysters Move?

As earlier indicated, oysters move during the first few days after turning into larvae. They move on the water bed or surface until they find a suitable location for food, safety, or reproduction. Once they do, they stay put in that spot for the rest of their lives. 

To put it more simply, adult oysters remain in the same spot throughout their entire lives once they find a suitable habitat with ample food and protection from predators. Whilst young oysters, also known as spat, move more frequently as they search for the perfect spot to settle down.

How Fast Do Oysters Move?

Oysters are not known for their speed. In fact, they’re some of the slowest-moving animals on the planet and are usually immobile throughout their adult lives. When they move, it’s at a very slow pace of just a few millimeters per day. 

This slow movement seems to suit their lifestyle as they don’t need to chase after their food like other marine creatures. Instead, they filter-feed by opening their shells and drawing in water to consume the plankton and other microscopic organisms floating in the water.

Can Oysters Move On Their Own?

Yes, oysters can move on their own, albeit very slowly. They use their foot and byssal threads to crawl across surfaces and anchor themselves to new locations. However, it’s important to note that oysters are not very mobile creatures and often rely on external factors, such as water currents, to aid their movement, especially during their larval stage.

What Factors Affect Oyster Movement?

Several factors can affect an oyster’s movement. These include:

  • Age: Young oysters (spat) are more likely to move in search of a suitable habitat.
  • Food availability: Oysters may move to find areas with a more abundant food supply.
  • Currents: Water currents can help oysters move, especially during their larval stage.
  • Environmental changes: Shifts in water temperature, quality, or the presence of predators can affect oyster movement.

Other articles you might be interested in:

Do Oysters Have Eyes?

Do Oysters Have Brains?

Do Oysters Feel Pain?

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