December 8, 2023

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Will we soon be able to find missing flight MH370 thanks to barnacles?  |  Science and the planet

Will we soon be able to find missing flight MH370 thanks to barnacles? | Science and the planet

On March 8, 2014, Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 suddenly disappeared while traveling from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. They searched with might and main for the missing plane, to no avail. Some pieces of wreckage have washed ashore, but the main body of the plane – along with the passengers and crew – is still missing to this day. But science may soon change that. a Scientific study He proposed a new method by which we might be able to find the plane after almost a decade. Thanks…barnacles.

A year after the accident, scientist Gregory Herbert of the University of South Florida saw pictures of the wreckage that had washed up on Reunion Island off the coast of Africa, showing barnacles. “The rubble was covered in barnacles, and as soon as I saw that, I immediately started sending emails to the people doing the research. I knew that the configuration of their homes could provide clues about the crash site.” press release.

A number of barnacles (Lepas anatifera) are attached to part of the wing. The reason this was so exciting to Herbert is that their shells grow daily, with each new layer affected by the temperature of the water the barnacles are in.

Read more below the image.

Barnacles (Lepas anatifera) © Think Stock

The result is something like how tree rings can tell you how old a tree is and what weather conditions were like. Or, for example, how looking at ancient coral reefs tells us that the Earth had 420 days a year over 400 million years ago. Thus, by comparing the water temperatures recorded by the shell with oceanographic models, it will be possible to determine the trajectory of the barnacles. In other words, you can figure out where the debris originally came from. What increases the optimism of scientists is that the accident occurred at a site called “The Seventh Arch”. The temperatures here change quickly making it easy to follow the trail.

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After Herbert refined the process to obtain more accurate temperature data from lab-grown barnacles, he tested his hypothesis on some of the younger barnacles that were on the wreck. In doing so, he saw a shift from warm waters of about 27°C to cooler waters of about 23°C, which is consistent with previous models showing the debris drifting south over the Indian Ocean.

We have now demonstrated through this study that we can trace the origin of the accident using barnacles

Additional research in which the scientists mined 50,000 particles in a simulation showed that it may indeed be possible to reconstruct the debris’ trajectory, significantly narrowing the scope of the search. However, to do this, the team writes, they still need to improve their methods and get to older barnacles.

French scientist Joseph Bobin, one of the first biologists to examine the wreckage, concluded that the largest barnacles attached to the wreckage were probably old enough to colonize the wreckage very soon after the crash. In other words, they came close to the actual site where the plane crashed. Fortunately, it is not yet available for search. But through this study we have now demonstrated that this method can be applied to barnacles to determine the origin of the collision.

The team hopes the new approach will help restart the search for the plane and possibly help the families of those on board finally end this chapter.

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