Oysters Bring Sea to Chicago

Oysters Bring Sea to Chicago

This is a translated version. Read the original one by Ent.

In 1954, biologist F.A. Brown dug a batch of oysters from the Connecticut Shore. Knowing the oysters’ tide-relating behaviour, the biorhythm researcher brought them to an underground aquarium in Chicago thousands of miles away, hoping for a new discovery.

The first two weeks were just typical. The oysters closed and opened their shells occasionally, preyed on planktons in the seawater, following the exact ebb and flow in the distant Connecticut Shore.

However, something indecipherable happened as time continued to pass. Their behavior remained unchanged, yet the tide they were following started to get different. The new rhythmic behavior didn’t match any of the tide cycles in Connecticut, Florida, California or Dover. In fact, it didn’t match any of the known tide tables.

After repeated calculations, Brown realized that those oysters were following Chicago’s tide cycle.

But there is no such thing as sea in Chicago.

These oysters lived in a basement beneath a concrete jungle, surrounded by artificial seawater in a prison-like glass box, yet they miraculously sensed the existence of the sea, which had provided shelters for their ancestors for millions of years. They can leave the sea, while the sea is never leaving them. Brown guessed that perhaps the oysters sensed the slight difference in air pressure, inferring from which the time a tide comes, and the rhythm of its own life. No oyster was doing this consciously, but in a deeper perspective, they were imaging such a sea, one never existed anywhere on earth, and their shells would open and close following the rhythm of its tides.

There exists sea in Chicago not, but oysters brought it to her.

F. A. Brown, Jr., Persistent activity rhythms in the oyster. The American journal of physiology, 1954.