Skip to Content (Press Enter)

Owl Limpets Struggle to Keep Grip on Coast in the Heat

Share This:

With their days spent grazing on algal film, owl limpets lead uneventful lives—unless, that is, they meet a black oystercatcher. As if levering off a metal cap with a bottle opener, the shorebird uses its distinctive orange bill to pry the limpets off their rocky homes, then flips them over and devours their newly exposed innards.

Unfortunately for the limpets, a new study has revealed that the higher the temperature, the easier it is for oystercatchers to overturn them.

Gastropods, including limpets, feel the heat during warm weather and stay cool by lifting their shells to let in the sea breeze. But some scientists wondered if hotter temperatures were impacting these gastropods in other ways—potentially inhibiting their ability to keep a grip on the rocky shore.

Jennifer L. Burnaford, a marine biologist at California State University, Fullerton, and her colleagues tested this by first obtaining temperature data from limpet habitats at nearby Dana Point in Orange County, and then measuring the typical force employed by oystercatchers to detach their favorite gastropods. To do that, the team built a custom force meter, hid it under an empty limpet shell, and enlisted the help of Squeakers, a captive oystercatcher living at a nearby wildlife refuge. Continue reading in Hakai Magazine.