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Compressibility and shell failure in the European Atlantic Patella limpets
Cabral, J.P.; Jorge, R.M.N. (2007). Compressibility and shell failure in the European Atlantic Patella limpets. Mar. Biol. (Berl.) 150(4): 585-597.
In: Marine Biology. Springer: Heidelberg; Berlin. ISSN 0025-3162, more
Peer reviewed article  

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  • Cabral, J.P.
  • Jorge, R.M.N.

    The specimens of Patella intermedia, Patella rustica, Patella ulyssiponensis and Patella vulgata were analysed for morphological and morphometric characters, and for the resistance to compression and crushing to a force applied at the apex. Shell shape in these species ranged from the high symmetrical cone, with a rounded base of P. rustica, to the flat, asymmetrical, narrow-pear-shaped base of P. ulyssiponensis. P. intermedia and P. vulgata showed intermediate morphologies. Shell thickness increased linearly with age, but differed in the four limpets. P. rustica had the thickest shells, and P. ulyssiponensis and P. vulgata had the thinnest shells. P. intermedia displayed intermediate shell thickness. Considering deformability and toughness, P. intermedia shells usually needed the highest force to compress in height, the highest pressure to collapse, and were appreciably deformed at collapse. On the opposite side, P. ulyssiponensis shells usually needed the lowest force to compress in height, the lowest pressure to collapse, and were much less deformed at collapse. P. intermedia shells were therefore the most deformable and tough, and P. ulyssiponensis, the most stiff and fragile. P. rustica and P. vulgata shells displayed intermediate behaviour. However, numerical simulations based on the finite element method using the experimentally determined shells’ geometry and thickness, but considering similar shells’ material and structure in the four species, predicted that shell toughness should be decreased in the order P. rustica >> P. intermedia > P. vulgata >> P. ulyssiponensis. P. rustica shells’ geometry (a high and centred cone) and thickness (very thick) were therefore, theoretically, the most fitted for shells to resist crushing by compression. Yet, in the experimental tests, they were not the most resistant shells. It was concluded that resistance to crushing was not a direct function of shell morphology and morphometry, but appeared to be mainly determined by shell deformability. This is most probably related to differences in the internal composition and architecture of the shell in the four species. By comparison with data reported in the literature on the pressures normally exerted by ocean waves, it was concluded that these limpets have resistances to crushing in far excess to pressures normally endured in nature, being therefore unlikely that these species are crushed by the action of even very strong waves on shores. Hard objects, like logs and boulders, can be hurled onto the shore by waves, and constitute a much greater threat to limpets than the waves themselves. The high toughness of the limpet shell can be related to resistance to the impact of incidental hard objects. There was no direct relationship between the habit preferences of these limpets and the resistance to crushing. Other factors are involved in the distribution of these species in the shores.

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