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New study reveals the biomechanics of how marine snail larvae swim

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Posted December 19, 2013
New study reveals the biomechanics of how marine snail larvae swim
Epifluorescent microscopy image of an Atlantic slipper limpet (Crepidula fornicata) veliger larva. Credit: Andreas Hejnol, Sars International Centre for Marine Molecular Biology
Equipped with high-speed, high-resolution video, scientists have discovered important new information on how marine snail larvae swim, a key behavior that determines individual dispersal and ultimately, survival.

Researchers from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and Stony Brook University grew Atlantic slipper limpet larvae, which are slightly larger than a grain of sand, and recorded microscopic video of them swimming. In previous studies, it has been commonly thought that larvae swim faster when they beat their hair-like cilia faster. However, this new microscopic video and research shows that this is not the case.

“I was actually quite surprised when I saw there was no relationship between cilia beat frequency and how fast they swim,” says Karen Chan, a WHOI postdoctoral scholar and the lead author on the study, which was published today in PLOS ONE.

The larvae actually control how fast they swim by subtly shifting the position of their velar lobes – flat, disc-shaped wings fringed with cilia. The ability to make small movements with their velar lobes, akin to how a bird adjusts the angle of its wings while soaring, exhibits a more complex neuromuscular control than previously thought.

Read more at: Phys.org

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