Do oysters feel pain when you bite into the inside, or when you crack open the shell? I tried google searching it to no avail. When you bite inside the oyster or when you break the shell to open the oyster, does it feel pain?

EDIT: (Since some people think that mine is a duplicate) I'm asking if the oysters feel pain when we eat the inside, or when we crack open their shell. To the least of my knowledge, ants and oysters have a different body so I don't know if they do feel pain.

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    $\begingroup$ Possible duplicate of Do ants feel pain? $\endgroup$
    – kmm
    Sep 9, 2018 at 16:38
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    $\begingroup$ This question is already answered by many of the "do X feel pain?" questions. $\endgroup$
    – kmm
    Sep 9, 2018 at 16:39
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    $\begingroup$ This is not duplicate of 'Ants feeling pain' since ants and oysters have different organisation and differ in terms of their sensory organs. $\endgroup$ Sep 9, 2018 at 16:57
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    $\begingroup$ @VishalKumarSahu no, but a lot of those questions need to start with definition of pain. We can't measure "pain" of an organism, only observe reaction. So OP can google more about oysters and how they react to X $\endgroup$ Sep 9, 2018 at 17:55
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    $\begingroup$ You should define what you mean by "pain". Do you mean "pain" simply as a reaction causing them to do something such as (try to) withdraw from the cause of the stimuli, and possibly ability to develop automatic reactions to similar situations so they try to avoid the experience of this pain in future? Or do you mean something deeper, "suffering" or "psychological trauma" or "fear of pain"? $\endgroup$
    – hyde
    Sep 10, 2018 at 17:07

3 Answers 3


There are fundamental problems with defining what it means for an animal to feel pain, especially when the animal is a life form as different from us as an oyster.

I wasn't able to find any specific info online about oysters, but there is quite a bit of information that allows us to reason by analogy with related species.

Oysters are molluscs, and molluscs do have brains and sensory systems, but their level of sophistication varies a lot. Cephalopod molluscs, such as squid, octopuses, and cuttlefish, have extremely sophisticated nervous systems, and it has been argued (Peter Godfrey-Smith, Other minds, 2016), that we should think of intelligence as having arisen twice on earth through parallel evolution: once in vertebrates and once in the cephalopods. Cephalopods have sophisticated communication systems, and they can use tools and solve problems. There has been extensive research on pain in cephalopods.

So it's inherently pretty plausible that cephalopods can (in some difficult to define sense) suffer and feel pain, and by extension that their less advanced cousins the oysters can as well. However, the nervous system of an oyster is much more rudimentary than that of a cephalopod. A better analogy might be with snails, and there is some research on snails. They avoid damaging stimuli, have opioid systems, and respond to morphine and naloxone analogously to humans (e.g., showing less aversion to a hot plate when they've been dosed with morphine). So it seems likely to me that oysters can feel pain (for some reasonable definition of the word), but this whole area is one where people don't really know the answers to the questions or how to construct the philosophical foundations.

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    $\begingroup$ It’s already implicit in the answer, but I think it would be clearer if you made explicit the distinction you are (seem to be?) making between pain and suffering, namely that pain is the physical activation of appropriate neurons that results in avoidance behavior, and suffering is the psychological experience of being in pain and the stress and, for lack of a better word, unhappiness that causes. Oysters (and most mobile animals) clearly seem to have the former (and so might some plants, and other life forms), but the latter is a much, much harder question to answer. $\endgroup$
    – KRyan
    Sep 10, 2018 at 13:39

It is very unlikely that oysters feel pain however it's not clear what the question actually means

What does it mean to say something feels pain? The most reductive biological interpretation is to say that "feeling pain" is simply the capacity to sense damage, or the threat of damage, to the body and communicate that to the nervous system in a way that elicits a response. However, that's not really what we're usually talking about feeling pain, but rather the unpleasant sensation that accompanies these signals.

And that's more difficult, because we know that the two are not equivalent. For example, disabled athletes are able to improve performance by inflicting injuries they cannot directly feel, but their bodies still respond to. In this case the reductive biological pathways are active but the sensation of pain is absent.

Oysters have no brain, but simply an couple of enlarged ganglia that perform some rudimentary centralised functions, and so it seems very unlikely indeed that they are capable of experiencing any sensations and thus almost certainly do not experience pain in the sense we would usually use of "feeling pain". But they do have a nervous system which can respond to stimuli including damage, or threat of damage, to their tissues so they have what could be described as having a pain response.

  • $\begingroup$ I agree with you that there are fundamental problems of definition here. But since I reach an opposite (tentative) conclusion to yours in my answer, I'm curious what you would take exception to in my answer. Does the evidence I give about snails not convince you that snails feel pain? $\endgroup$
    – user4617
    Sep 24, 2019 at 0:57
  • $\begingroup$ @BenCrowell: No, it doesn't; it convinces me that snails have a pain avoidance response. I do not think that this is either equivalent to or implies that the snails feel a sensation of pain. $\endgroup$ Sep 24, 2019 at 9:22

Referring to this research article on PubMed, oysters have their sensory system and organisation like humans. So any change or invasion in the system of Oyster is communicated through sensory organs. So Oysters do feel pain. It's like, pain is a result of something harmful or negative is going on.

Regarding break opening the shell, as it is a sort of insult to their protective system, they have the sense of removal of the covering, we can term it as 'pain'.

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    $\begingroup$ Articles listed on PubMed are not necessarily from NIH, any more than websites you find through a Google search are not from Alphabet. All the paper you mention demonstrates is that oysters have a nervous system, which is far from controversial and says nothing about the organization of their nervous system with respect to humans. From a neuroscientific perspective, pain and sensation are not the same; I suppose yes, you can term it 'pain', but I could also hold up an apple and term it 'pain': that doesn't mean it's valid or is how people in the field talk about pain. $\endgroup$
    – Bryan Krause
    Sep 10, 2018 at 21:37
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    $\begingroup$ "they have the sense of removal of the covering" I would be very interested in how we would prove/disprove such a statement. $\endgroup$
    – AnoE
    Sep 11, 2018 at 11:35
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    $\begingroup$ @BryanKrause, but an apple is not a sensation. And this is not meaningless, how can you know other people feel pain and not just a sensation? Monkeys, fish, worms? $\endgroup$
    – rus9384
    Sep 11, 2018 at 13:01
  • $\begingroup$ @rus9384 Other people, as well as monkeys, have the exact same neural organization of pain pathways. Fish have some similarities, though not identical; worms are much different. It is quite possible in humans to have reflexes without pain, and other types of sensation are carried separately from painful ones, so simply having sensation does not mean having pain, even in the context of aversive stimuli. That also doesn't prove that something like an oyster doesn't have pain, but if it does it is instantiated differently than ours. The answer says "oysters feel pain" without support. $\endgroup$
    – Bryan Krause
    Sep 11, 2018 at 15:39
  • $\begingroup$ Please add options for the questioner, about the education like if he is graduate or post graduate, if he has published paper or not, and the people who give answer should answer based on that. or always answer like they do publish a research paper. $\endgroup$ Sep 11, 2018 at 17:59

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