‘Flying’ through the ocean: Researchers find the sea butterfly swims like insects fly

A sea butterfly (Limacina helicina). Photo: EOL Learning and Education Group via Flickr.

It turns out that the sea butterfly (Limacina helicina), a zooplankton snail that lives in cold oceans, lives up to its name. Georgia Institute of Technology researchers went to the Pacific Ocean to scoop up hundreds of the 3-millimeter marine mollusks (called pteropods), and then used high-speed cameras to watch how they move. They found that sea butterflies don’t paddle like most small water animals. Instead, they’re like flying insects, flapping their wings to produce lift and propel them through the water.

Thursday, February 18, 2016
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