The slipper shell has many common names, including Atlantic slippersnail, boat shell and quarterdeck shell. It is known in the United Kingdom as the common slipper limpet. The species is a medium-sized sea snail, a marine gastropod mollusk in the family Calyptraeidae, the slipper snails and the cup-and-saucer snails.
Paper co-author Dianna Padilla of Stony Brook University collected the snails from the North Shore of Long Island, N.Y. She grew the larvae in her lab, which were then sent to WHOI for video analysis.
Houshuo Jiang, a scientist at WHOI and collaborator on the project, says the goal is to understand the limpet's role in shaping the marine ecosystem.
With support from NSF, Jiang built a customized, vertically-oriented optical system that can magnify and record high-speed, high-resolution video of microorganisms swimming in seawater at 2,000 frames per second.
"Much more can be observed in great detail using this setup than looking through a microscope," Jiang says.
Jiang found that in a single day, slipper shell larvae could vary their speed from swimming one body length per second to four body lengths per second.
"What this means is they have a lot of control over how fast they swim," Chan says. How they swim can determine where they go.
And where they might turn up next.
"These results show the flexibility these little animals have," says Padilla, "which is likely what makes them so successful in their environment."
|Contact: Cheryl Dybas|
National Science Foundation