First of all, what’s a limpet?
Limpets refer to any gastropod (snail) that does not have a coil in its shell (examples in photo are all deep-sea limpets from wood and whale bone). This shell form has evolved several times over the last half a billion years or so that gastropods have been living on this planet.
What makes them so special?
Well, remember how I said the limpet shape has evolved many times? They’ve also been successful colonists of an extremely high diversity of freshwater and marine habitats. In fact, the group of limpets I spent a lot of time investigating, the Lepetelloidea, live in pretty much the coolest place ever, the deep sea. And they live on some pretty unique substrates to boot! Hydrothermal vents, cold seeps, whale falls, sunken wood, empty shark and skate egg cases, algal holdfasts, worm tubes, crab carapaces, sponges, and who knows what else! Pretty eclectic limpets, eh?
I have recently completed a my dissertation and received my PhD from UC Berkeley in Dr. David Lindberg’s lab, but I also have had many opportunities to work with scientists from other institutions locally and abroad.
I am so fascinated by the dynamics within the deep-sea environment, how organisms have diversified and specialized to particular habitats, and the factors that are important in shaping the deep-sea community. I have used the perspective of particular taxa (limpets), habitats (wood colonization experiment), and the power of comparative phylogenetics across bivalves and gastropods to explore these patterns at different scales of time and space.
So, in the end, it hasn’t just been about the limpets after all, but the broader context they are situated in and the community of scientists that they have connected me to has taken me around the globe to build a diverse scientific skill set and perspective.