INTEGRATING AUTOMATED IMAGING AND A NOVEL IDENTIFICATION TECHNIQUE TO ESTIMATE MORTALITY AND IDENTIFY FACTORS THAT INFLUENCE THE VERTICAL DISTRIBUTION OF CRASSOSTREA VIRGINICA LARVAE
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Understanding the population dynamics and complete life cycle of bivalves is important for effectively manage them. Most of the literature and research to date has focused on juvenile and adult bivalves, much less is known about larvae. The larval stage of the bivalve life cycle has been difficult to study due to the lack of a rapid automated approach for identifying species. However, a new technique, called ShellBi, has emerged that utilizes color patterns on the larval shell under polarized light to identify bivalve larvae. The objective of this chapter was to review the scientific basis for ShellBi and to apply it to bivalve larvae in Choptank River with the goal of distinguishing C. virginica from seven other species that spawn at the same time. A digital camera and polarized light microscope were used to capture images of the shells of bivalve larvae under standard and cross-polarized light. Images of C. virginica were distinguishable from other species based on these patterns, especially at later stages of development. These images could serve as a visual guide to identify C. virginica collected from the Choptank River and other tributaries with similar species in Chesapeake Bay.