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PRACTICAL OCEANOGRAPHY


Forensic barnacles


Crustaceans stuck to the aircraft wing that was washed up on Réunion Island could help investigators determine exactly where ill-fated flight MH370 was when it disappeared


I Words: Bob Carling


n March 2014 a Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777, flying between Kuala Lumpur and Beijing, went missing. In July of this year news broke of some debris washed up on Réunion Island – suspected to be from the ill-fated flight. Although it seems likely that the wing part is from flight MH370, there is continuing controversy over the various statements from the French and the Malaysian authorities. If it is confirmed that the debris is from the


aircraft, marine scientists believe that they can help to piece together exactly what happened to flight MH370 using forensic analysis of the type of barnacles adhering to the debris. This would involve the identifica- tion of the exact species of barnacle, their size


and their DNA profile. Professor Dr Hans-Georg Herbig and biologist Philipp Schiffer from the University of Cologne have said that because certain organisms only live in specific locations, it may become easier to identify the site of the crash by analysing the wreckage.


Crash site


When Herbig saw the images of the wreckage on Réunion he clearly recognised the goose barnacles (crustaceans of the species Lepas), attached to it, which only live in certain latitude- dependent climatic zones. According to the scientists, if the goose barnacles stuck to the wreckage are


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