What Barnacles Could Tell Us About MH370

They could narrow the search area
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 3, 2015 6:45 AM CDT
What Barnacles Could Tell Us About MH370
This image taken from video, shows a piece of debris from a plane, Wednesday, July 29, 2015, in Saint-Andre, Reunion.   (Reunion 1ere via AP)

All eyes have been on Reunion Island these past few days, but some of the action has now shifted to Paris following Saturday's arrival of a piece of debris believed to possibly be from MH370. USA Today reports that military aviation and legal experts will on Wednesday begin their inquiry; today, French and Malaysian investigators will meet with an investigating judge. While a determination of whether the part belonged to the missing plane appears days off, Reuters is digging into a possible clue-on-a-clue: If the debris does belong to the missing Malaysia Airlines flight, what appear to be goose or stalk barnacles affixed to it could reveal some of the plane's secrets.

An analysis of their shells and their positioning on the debris could allow scientists to make determinations about the "temperature and chemical composition" of the water the barnacles traveled through and how the debris moved through it (ie, above water or submerged); from there, their source can be pinpointed—in a general way, at least. An Australia PhD student whose focus is the shell chemistry of barnacles suggests the best they could do is narrow the search area to, at the least, tens of kilometers. Still, "it's very powerful stuff," William Newman, a professor at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, tells Bloomberg News: Indeed, barnacles have been used to study the movement patterns of whales and turtles, have given up shipwreck secrets, provided info on enemy ships in WWII, and have even factored into murder investigations. Newman says he once helped police examine barnacles found on a body bag and skull. (Read more MH370 stories.)

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