How the hell do oysters procreate? To my limited imagination the whole event seemed fraught with risk, something akin to making love in a suit of armour while clinging to a rock under water. Not that I have ever tried this.
You will be pleased to hear that the sex life of oysters is much, much simpler and safer than it sounds. Like most of his gender in the animal world, the average male oyster sits around a lot until – perhaps stimulated by the sight of the ocean’s bottom – he decides that a good healthy ejaculation might add some colour to his day. When you consider that oysters do not have hands or a wallet, this is quite a good trick.
Here’s how it works: Having ejaculated into the seething warm waters around him (those of you with spas will get the idea) he returns to his daily routine i.e. sitting around waiting to be eaten. He achieves this without any resorting to the normal Human stratagems of bribery, alcohol or, my favourite, begging. Now this, you might well suggest, does not sound like a recipe for producing the next generation of marine sloths. Well, you would be right if it were not for the resourceful – and somewhat grateful – female of the species coming to the rescue (so to speak).
The remarkable Mrs Oyster – without the benefit of sight, hearing and, it has to be said, to the eternal gratitude of Mr Oyster, speech – senses that destiny is afloat. She reciprocates by squirting a similar number of eggs out into the briny foam. At particular times of the year, this means that the sex life of oysters creates a veritable sperm and egg vichyssoise of your favourite beach (not something to be contemplated at length the next time you swallow a mouthful of sea water – and we haven’t even started on the sex life of whales yet!).
The product of this joyful union is called a veliger and within a year he or she has settled neatly onto the nearest bit of hard stuff at which time they become known as a spat (the oyster equivalent, I presume, of a brat). Secreting a cement-like substance they then cling to their piece of turf in the surf and here they will spend the rest of their life.
Does this all sound somewhat familiar? OK so we, at the pinnacle of evolution’s pyramid, are not likely to end up au naturale on a plate with a squeeze of lemon juice (not now that Jeffrey Dahmer is dead, anyway).
But sometimes I do feel like an oyster – a life spent clinging desperately to my bit of dirt, tucked inside my shell and randomly ejaculating to produce the next brood of rock-clingers.