Eating seafood can be quite tricky. Though this category of food is loved by many people across the globe, it also poses a risk of developing allergies and infections. That's why wild oysters are mostly consumed during specific months containing the letter 'r' - from September to April - to avoid food poisoning. If you thought that scientific advancement and awareness in the recent times brought upon this oyster consumption behaviour, you may be wrong. The same practice may have been followed for at least 4,000 years. At least, that's what a research by Florida Museum of Natural History claims.
Researchers Nicole Cannarozzi and Michal Kowalewski carried out the study on large shell ring off Georgia's coast and discovered that the ancient inhabitants of St. Catherines Island restricted the harvest of oyster to the non-summer months.
Nicole Cannarozzi, the study's lead author and Florida Museum environmental archaeology collection manager remarked, "People have been debating the purpose of these shell rings for a very long time. Were they everyday food waste heaps? Temporary communal feasting sites? Or perhaps a combination? Understanding the seasonality of the rings sheds new light on their function."
The team analysed oysters and snails from a 230-foot-wide, 4,300-year-old shell ring on St. Catherines Island and compared them with live oysters and snails. They studied a breed of snails, known as impressed odostomes, which are common parasites of oysters. These snail have a 12-month life cycle, therefore its length at the time of its death can give reveal the life period and death time of the ouster host. This helped the researchers draw up a fair estimate of the seasonal clock for when people collected and ate oysters in the past.
The findings that were published in PLOS ONE suggest that island inhabitants mostly harvested oysters during late fall, winter and spring only.
"This type of data can give us good information about their ecology, how other organisms interact with them, the health of oyster populations and, on a grander scale, the health of coastal ecosystems," Cannarozzi concluded.