Barnacles on debris could provide clues to missing plane

MH370 is believed to have crashed in the southern Indian Ocean, about 3,700 km (2,300 miles) away from Reunion.

Barnacles on debris could provide clues to missing MH370

Barnacles encrusted on a piece of plane debris that washed up on the French island of Reunion might help unravel the mystery of missing Malaysia Airlinesflight MH370 that disappeared last year with 239 passengers and crew on board.

Malaysia said on Sunday the piece of debris, a 2-2.5 metre (6.5-8 feet) wing surface known as flaperon, had been identified as being from a Boeing 777, the same model as the missing Malaysian plane. Investigators in France are expected to determine whether the piece came from MH370 or not by Wednesday.

Based on photographs, ecologists in Australia believe the crustaceans clinging to the wing piece are goose or stalk barnacles.

"Barnacle shells ... can tell us valuable information about the water conditions under which they were formed," said Ryan Pearson, a PhD student at Australia's Griffith University who is studying the shell chemistry of barnacles to determine migration patterns of endangered loggerhead turtles.

The technique is also used to study the movement of whales.

Experts analyse barnacle shells to determine the temperature and chemical composition of the water through which they passed to help reveal their origin.

While the technique could help narrow the area of the search for MH370 to within tens, or hundreds, of kilometres, it was unlikely to pinpoint an exact location, Pearson said.

Barnacles can be aged, based on growth rates and size. If the barnacles on the debris are older than the date MH370 went missing, it would rule it coming from that plane, said Melanie Bishop a professor at the Department of Biological Sciences, Macquarie University.

Ecologists would look at whether the barnacles were on the surface of the flaperon or confined to the sides as that could indicate whether the debris moved on the surface of the water or was submerged.

The investigators in France would also be on the lookout for other organisms such as tube worms, coralline red algae or shellfish that could also provide clues.

Marine archaeologists study barnacles for clues about shipwrecks but this was believed to be the first time they will be studied to determine the fate of an airliner.

"It's a nice example of the unexpected ways that discovery research can be surprisingly useful in tackling new problems in different contexts," said professor Angela Moles, evolution and ecology research centre at the University of New South Wales.

JOIN OUR PULSE COMMUNITY!

Unblock notifications in browser settings.

Eyewitness? Submit your stories now via social or:

Email: eyewitness@pulse.ng

Recommended articles

Akeredolu insists Nigeria must adopt restructuring

Akeredolu insists Nigeria must adopt restructuring

Scenes as Kano Lawmaker rejoins APC after few days in NNPP

Scenes as Kano Lawmaker rejoins APC after few days in NNPP

Only leaders with a touch of madness can fix Nigeria - Obasanjo

Only leaders with a touch of madness can fix Nigeria - Obasanjo

Lagos residents express divergent views on okada ban

Lagos residents express divergent views on okada ban

Magu will still be prosecuted if indicted despite promotion – Minister

Magu will still be prosecuted if indicted despite promotion – Minister

Bauchi gov praises Buhari for helping him to achieve political glory

Bauchi gov praises Buhari for helping him to achieve political glory

Boko Haram, other terrorist groups moving into Kaduna, El-Rufai cries out

Boko Haram, other terrorist groups moving into Kaduna, El-Rufai cries out

2023: Osinbajo promises Niger delegates food, accommodation during primary

2023: Osinbajo promises Niger delegates food, accommodation during primary

IPOB asks Kumuyi to cancel planned crusade in South East

IPOB asks Kumuyi to cancel planned crusade in South East