My enjoyment of the denizens of the deep oceans is matched by a fascination with the properties of skin, or shells and the variety of ways that nature has found for keeping the outside out, while letting in the things that need to be let in.
Thus I was quite interested to learn about the scaly-foot gastropod, native to some hydrothermal vents in the Indian Ocean. According to Wired Science its shell structure is “unlike any other known mollusk or any other known natural armor”. Making use of iron sulfide, it involves a complex variety of layers interacting which each other to create a novel and incredibly durable form of protection that can withstand heat, pressure, acidity and predation.
Of equal interest is what happens to shells when no longer attached to their original creator. From the use that hermit crabs and other animals make of discarded shells, to the very unusual devices that humans create from them, the shell, unlike most other membranes, has a lasting life outside of its original function. Scientists hope to be able to develop new forms of body armour by understanding the nuances of the scaly-foot gastropod. Aside from the modern obsession for bio-mimicry, or perhaps as a more archaic form of it, shells have been used as musical instruments for at least the past three thousand years, as well as in divination and as a form of proto-monetary exchange.
In the entire domain of human wissenschaft shells serve as an example of the uses that are made of what is unintentionally left behind, while for the organism itself, it speaks of the integrity and resistance of the individual. Psychologically, they are also emblematic of the inability to properly communicate between the inner and outside worlds once some present or imagined danger has passed.
Which brings me to the not so inevitable conclusion of this article, Supertramp.
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