Sunday, January 31, 2010

Marine biology: Osteopelta (small, bone-associated shield), limpets

Osteopelta is the name for a specialized group of limpets. The word is derived from the Greek/Latin noun pelta, meaning small shield, and the prefix osteo- from the the Greek word osteon for bone (as occurring, for example, in the word osteoporosis). Osteopelta limpets have been found in assocoation with bones (!): alive on bones of whale carcasses sunken to the seafloor [1] and fossilized along with bones of a leatherback turtle from the Middle Eocene [2].
Crispin Little refers to the discovery of Osteopelta in recovered whale bones [1]:
[…] a tiny, previously unknown species of limpet—limpets are snail-like mollusks with conical rather than spiral shells—was described in 1985, soon followed by others. The limpets were named Osteopelta bacause of their association with bones.
Keywords: Osteopeltidae, ecosystems, biodiversity, deep seafloor, scavenger stages, fossil bones

[1] Crispin T. S. Little: The Prolific Afterlife of Whales. Scientific American February 2010, 302 (2), pp. 78-84.
[2] Craig R. Smith and Amy R. Baco: Ecology of Whale Falls at the Deep-Sea Floor. Oceanography and Marine Biology: an Annual Review 2003, 41, pp. 311-354 (see page 343) .PDF.

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