How many kind of food can you name comes with its own side dish? Well, the eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica) should be on that list. This week. we've already seen how a trematode infection can improve the taste of oysters, but it seems that oyster also comes with another gastronomic treat in the form of the pea crab Zaops ostreum. Pea crabs (family Pinnotheridae) are small soft bodied crabs which live inside a variety of marine invertebrates, with most species living in bivalves. Zaops ostreum infect the oyster as a tiny first stage larvae, and grow to maturity within the bivalve's mantle cavity, feeding upon food-laden mucus strings produced by its host's filtering action. It is a true parasite in that it causes harm to its host. Not only does it steal food from the oyster, it also forms an obstruction within the body cavity and erode the gill tissue. From a culinary perspective, there are many serving suggestions available for pea crabs - they can be served raw, deep fried, or sautéed, and can be eaten either as a side dish to oysters, or even on their own (if you can get enough of them to make a meal!).
Photo and contribution by Tommy Leung.