Program Info

The Gulf of Mexico (GoM) is home to the world's largest remaining wild oyster fisheries, but baseline surveys needed to assess habitat condition are recent and may represent an already-shifted reference state. Here, we use prehistoric oysters from archaeological middens to show that oyster size, an indicator of habitat function and population resilience, declined prior to the earliest assessments of reef condition in an area of the GoM previously considered pristine. Stable isotope sclerochronlogy reveals extirpation of colossal oysters occurred through truncated life history and slowed growth. More broadly, our study suggests that management strategies affected by shifting baselines may overestimate resilience and perpetuate practices that risk irreversible decline.
Oyster shell height (mm)
The modern oyster data counterpart to the archaeological oyster data in this program are entered under program ID_5070. The publication associated with these program data is: Hesterberg SG et al. 2020. Prehistoric baseline reveals substantial decline of oyster reef condition in a Gulf of Mexico conservation priority area. Biol. Lett. 16: 20190865. . The publication that reports the archaeological shell sample collection methods is: Pluckhahn, T.J., Thompson, V.D., Cherkinsky, A., 2015. The temporality of shell-bearing landscapes at Crystal River, Florida. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 37, 19–36.
Shells were collected from a series of trenches dug into middens at the Crystal River archaeological site. The trenches were 1m wide and ranged from 2m-6m in length. They were excavated in 1m x 1m spatial intervals and 10cm depth intervals. 0.32cm sieves were used to extract the shell. Shell heights of all left valves >35mm were measured using vernier calipers.
Data Location
Data Format
Oyster/Oyster Reef
SEACAR Citation
University of South Florida. (2013). Prehistoric baseline reveals substantial decline of oyster reef condition in a Gulf of Mexico conservation priority area - archaeological oyster data. Updated 12/09/2021. Distributed by: SEACAR Data Discovery Interface, Office of Resilience and Coastal Protection, Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
Alternative Citation

indicates priority attributes

Stephen Hesterberg

Doctoral candidate, University of South Florida

Export Standardized Data

Habitat(s) : Indicator(s) Last Updated File Download
Oyster/Oyster Reef : Size Class 07/08/24 02:34 PM Download File - Oyster -
DIP Document N/A Download File - DIP

Office of Resilience and Coastal Protection Managed Areas

St. Martins Marsh


Oyster/Oyster Reef - Size Class

Documentation and Data provided by program

File Type File Name Added On Details
Data Hesterberg_etal_BL_Dryad_archaeodat.xlsx 05/05/20 02:49 PM View Details
Data Hesterberg_etal_BL_Dryad_archaeodat_incLiveDate.xlsx 09/16/20 10:58 PM View Details
Protocols Hesterberg_etal 2020.pdf 05/05/20 02:49 PM View Details