News

Limpet research lands fellowship



21 May 2012

Limpet (Cellana tramoserica)
Limpet (Cellana tramoserica)

Limpets may not look like much, but the health of these aquatic gastropods is an indication of the health of the water they inhabit. Sonia Brazao, from the School of Biological Sciences, was recently awarded a doctoral fellowship from the Sydney Institute of Marine Science (SIMS) for her proposed investigation of these snail-like creatures.

Limpets are also of ecological importance because their grazing stops shorelines being dominated by large seaweeds. But limpet numbers in Sydney Harbour have diminished. It seems these little creatures don't like to breed on the man-made structures which dominate the Harbour. Sonia plans to investigate limpet nutrition to see if food requirements are limiting their distribution in Sydney Harbour.

Limpets are sneaky feeders and it is not an easy task to watch what they are eating. So Sonia's first experiments will be laboratory based, using stable isotopes and fatty acid analysis, to establish a correlation between the food profile in the water with the tissue profile of the animals. She can then compare the natural rocky shorelines with artificial structures such as seawalls in terms of abundance of food and the limpets ability to eat it. These findings may then lead changes in the design of man-made structures on the Harbour to minimise their impacts on the ecosystem.

Sonia Brazao (right) receiving her fellowship from Charlie Shuetrim (left - SIMS Foundation Chair)
Sonia Brazao (right) receiving her fellowship from Charlie Shuetrim (left - SIMS Foundation Chair)

The SIMS doctoral fellowship, awarded to Sonia for three years, provides funds to support this project. Sonia received the fellowship during a ceremony held at the Chowder Bay research centre this week. Sonia's PhD research is being supervised by Professor Ross Coleman, Professor Stephen Simpson and Dr Richard Murphy.