Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science



First Advisor

Bonnie L Brown


Predation may be a key component of the unsuccessful restoration of the Eastern Oyster (Crassostrea virginica), a former keystone species in Chesapeake Bay. Here, I examine the polyclad flatworm Stylochus ellipticus and its potential role as an important predator of C. virginica. Using small-fragment size C. virginica specific DNA primers, oyster DNA was successfully detected in whole organisms homogenates of wild-caught S. ellipticus individuals. Of the 1,575 individuals tested, 68.1% tested positive, thus predation occurred. Predation did not appear to be affected by salinity or temperature; however, season did appear to have an effect on both predation and S. ellipticus abundance (p-value: <0.05). The findings also imply that S. ellipticus are highly mobile, entering the water column to reach hard substrate at various depths, whereas previous studies suggest otherwise. These findings are useful in the planning and management of oyster cultivation and restoration. Furthermore, this study outlines a method of diet study that may be more sensitive than traditional DNA-based techniques.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

May 2014

Included in

Biology Commons