Could Barnacles Hold the Key to Finding MH370?

posted: 08/04/15
by: Danny Clemens
Lepas australis
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Lepas australis (larger, smooth) and Lepas pectinata (smaller, stripped) on a Durvillaea antarctica holdfast.
Andre-Philippe Drapeau Picard via Wikimedia Commons

Tiny animals stuck to wreckage washing up on Reunion Island, thought to belong to vanished Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, could help scientists locate the rest of the aircraft, researchers claim.

University of Cologne geologist Hans-Georg Herbig and biologist Philipp Schiffer believe that they have identified goose barnacles (Lepas australis) in photos of the recently recovered aircraft debris. L. australis can only thrive in specific, latitude-dependent climatic zones, according to the researchers, and identifying the animals' habitat could significantly narrow down the search area for the remaining wreckage of the craft, which disappeared on March 8, 2014.

"If we find Lepas australis on the wreckage, then we can prove with certainty that the plane crash occurred in cool southern marine areas west of Australia," Herbig said in a news release. "Now, we just have to see the shells to be able to say which type of goose barnacles these are."

The wreckage on Reunion Island has not yet been definitively linked to MH370, although investigators have determined that the piece of plane wing found did come from a Boeing 777, the same type of plane as the ill-fated Malaysia Airlines flight.

Goose barnacles are small, filter-feeding crustaceans that affix themselves to a variety of surfaces. A 1995 study found the barnacles on "buoys, driftwood, plastic bags, ships and turtles." The creatures can grow to be approximately 3/4 of an inch (20mm) long.

Learn more about crustaceans:

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Sharks & Crustaceans

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