|The common Antarctic pteropod, Limacina|
antarctica, photographed under a dissecting
microscope by Brandon Hassett.
Pteropods are commonly called "sea butterflies" because of those two wing-like lobes. They're related to snails and sea slugs, but they spend their entire life-cycle up in the water column, not on the seafloor. Pteropods use their lobes, which are modified extensions of the foot, to swim up and down in the water column. The lobes ripple and beat like butterfly wings, carrying the animal up to the surface of the water. At the surface, the pteropod constructs a mucus net, which it spreads over itself like a parachute to catch particles to eat as it sinks back down. They're beautiful and fascinating creatures.
|Swimming pteropods in one of the respiration|
I haven't done any experiments with respiration or animal physiology since I was an undergraduate, so it's fun for me to learn new techniques. The pteropods are also goregous animals that are relatively easy to work with. It will be fun to see what the data show!