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A shared origin with fresh and dredged cultch and availability via mining have made fossil cultch a commonly used reef restoration substrate. However, important differences in shape and size between whole-shell cultch and fossil cultch may impact the complexity of reefs constructed from these materials. To determine if these differences may impact the development of restored reefs, we quantified the interstitial space each cultch type provides and constructed reef mesocosms to measure (1) the immediate effects of exposure to each cultch type on mortality of blue crab (Callinectes sapidus) and pink shrimp (Farfantepenaeus duorarum); (2) the tendency of crab, shrimp, and Florida crown conch (Melongena corona) to be found on habitats composed of each substrate type and their position within each in split-substrate mesocosms; and (3) the influence of cultch type on predation of Eastern oysters (Crassostrea virginica) by crabs and conch. Aggregation of fossil cultch contain more shells and provide less interstitial space than an equivalent volume of whole-shell cultch. Although immediate mortality following deployment was low and did not differ among cultch types, we found that all species were more likely to be found on fresh cultch over fossil cultch in choice experiments and used each habitat type differently. Cultch type also impacted the size of oysters consumed by crabs in short-term feeding trials. The structure and traits of habitats created by various materials should be added to the growing list of issues considered when natural communities are to be restored in oyster reefs and other environments.


This is the author's accepted manuscript of an article originally published in Restoration Ecology, available at



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