A Snail’s Pace

Pokily, hokily,
Freshwater Gastropods
Put away proteins
In bits of their shell

“Fossil opercula
Measures the proteins to
See what they tell

From the University of York (and in Nature), a cool story with a little help from my cousins the gastropods. As snails grow, they tuck away proteins in their opercula–the hinge/trapdoor deally that they hide behind when they hide in their shells. Turns out, these proteins are protected from the elements by calcium carbonate crystals, in what one of the developers of the technique (Dr. Kirsty Penkman) calls “a protein time capsule”.

Without external interference, what remains is internal degradation of the proteins, the extent of which tells how old the sample is, and in greater detail than with previous methods.

So it’s a cleaner sample than previous methods; the snails are commonly found worldwide; the method is highly reliable.



  1. Samantha Vimes says

    I’ve always loved your work, but I absolutely have to say it’s great to see someone using the Higgelty-piggelty format!

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