Monday, 23 February 2015

Day 114 - Lovely Lumpy Limpets (easy for you to say)

Common Limpet (Patella vulgata)
Hi all today's Day 114 and in Saturday's post I said that I went to the beach. I loved it there because we were rock-pooling and when you do this you can never be sure what you're going to find. I also like it as it's an activity that anybody can do at any time, providing they keep an eye on the tide and are careful not to slip on the rocks.

When I was there one of the most common things that I saw were the lovely Limpets. Now I didn't know this but these little critters are far more fascinating than they first appear (just sat there). You can see the evidence below in the facts I found:

  • You may have seen in the press recently that Limpets have teeth. But more to the point. their teeth are made up of the strongest biological material ever tested by scientists! That means they are stronger than spider silk and most man-made materials!
  • "So," you say, "why have limpets got teeth? Especially such strong ones, especially as they are vegetarians?!" Well, they feed on algae which they scrape off of the rocks that they live on. They do this with their tongue which has teeth that are no more than 1mm long. These teeth are so strong that they don't just pull the algae off, but some of the rock as well!
  • Limpets are Molluscs just like snails that you will find in your garden but specially adapted to the sea. The distinction is that Limpets have a conical shaped shell that they have developed for a very special reason. As the breathe water, the conical shell gives them a bigger space to store the water when they are stranded at low tide. They also slow down their metabolism to reduce the need for water. 
  • Limpets can live deeper at sea and those that do have flatter shells for the above reason.
  • Limpets that do live in tidal zones have to withstand all sorts of tough conditions, not least attacks by other animals, the heat of the sun and the force of waves crashing onto them every day.
  • What helps them to do this? Well, it's the strong shell again along with their strong muscular foot which they use to sucker themselves onto the rock. 
  • They have a 'home-spot' on a rock and as they bed down they rotate their shell and grind into the rock. As they can live for up to 20 years their shell adapts to the rock and becomes the same shape as the rock which helps to keep them safe from predators. The suction of their foot is helped by a chemical they make and creates a very strong force to hold them in place.
Limpets amongst barnacles and seaweed.
  • Another clever thing about Limpets is that when they are moving around to feed they leave a slime trail. Scientists have now discovered that they can follow the trail back home as the trail contains special chemicals that the Limpets recognise.
  • Limpets will fight any other Limpets if they see them in their 'home-spot'. The way they do this is by bumping into the Limpet that has invaded their home-ground.
  • Their shell is also a defence against carnivorous Molluscs such as Whelks. When a Whelk tries to drill in to their prey's shell the Limpet will use its shell to trap the predator's foot.
Anyway, here are some links to some more information,

Hope you enjoyed,


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