European limpets (Patella vulgata) with acorn barnacles (Balanus balanoides)
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Thus the word "limpet" is an inexact term, which is fairly often used as part of the common name of a wide variety of different marine and freshwater gastropod species, some of which have gills and some of which have a lung. The name is given on the basis of a limpet-like or "patelliform" shell, but the several groups of snails which have such a shell are not at all closely related to one another.
As well as being applied to true limpets, the common name "limpet" is also used for many widely different snails in the subclass Orthogastropoda, including:
Most of the marine limpets have gills, whereas all the freshwater limpets and a few of the marine limpets have a mantle cavity which is adapted to breathe air and function as a lung (and in some cases has been again adapted to absorb oxygen from water) all these various kinds of snail are only very distantly related. In other words, the name limpet is used to describe various extremely diverse groups of gastropods which have independently evolved a shell of the same basic shape (see convergent evolution).
Until quite recently a west Mexican limpet species, the giant limpet, Patella (Ancistromesus) mexicana, was known to grow as large as 8 in (20 cm). This species is now in serious danger of extinction, as it is slow to reach maturity, and has suffered from overcollecting, both as a food item, and by shell collectors and dealers.
They attach themselves to the substrate using pedal mucus and a muscular "foot". They locomote using wave-like muscular contractions of the foot when conditions are suitable for them to graze. They can also "clamp down" against the rock surface with very considerable force when necessary, and this ability enables them to remain safely attached, despite the dangerous wave action on exposed rocky shores. The ability to clamp down also seals the shell edge against the rock surface, protecting them from desiccation during low tide, despite their being in full sunlight.
When true limpets are fully clamped down, it is impossible to remove them from the rock using brute force alone, and the limpet will allow itself to be destroyed rather than stop clinging to its rock. This survival strategy has led to the limpet being used as a metaphor for obstinacy or stubbornness.
In some parts of the world, certain smaller species of true limpet are specialized to live on seagrasses and graze on the microscopic algae which grow there. Other species live on, and graze directly on, the stipes (stalks) of brown algae (kelp).
Some species of limpets return to the same spot on the rock known as a "home scar" just before the tide recedes. In such species, the shape of their shell often grows to precisely match the contours of the rock surrounding the scar. This behaviour presumably allows them to form a better seal to the rock and may help protect from either predation or desiccation.
It is still unclear how limpets find their way back to the same spot each time, but it is thought that they follow pheromones in the mucus left as they move. Other species, notably Lottia gigantea seem to "garden" a patch of algae around their home scar . They are one of the few invertebrates to exhibit territoriality and will aggressively push other organisms out of this patch by ramming with their shell, thereby allowing their patch of algae to grow for their own grazing. Also, where the limpets eat the algae off bare rocks, it creates places where other organisms can grow and thrive.
Limpets can be long lived, with tagged specimens surviving for more than 10 years. If the limpet lives on bare rock, it grows at a slower rate but can live for up to 20 years.
Limpets found on exposed shores, which have fewer rock pools than sheltered shores and are thus in less frequent contact with water, have a greater risk of desiccation due to the effects of increased sunlight, water evaporation and the increased wind speed. To avoid drying out they will clamp to the rock they inhabit, minimizing water-loss from the rim around their base. As this occurs chemicals are released that promote the vertical growth of the limpet's shell.
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May 01, 2011; Alimpet is a kind of aquatic animal, like a snail, that is known for its ability to tenaciously cling to something. It...