In search of glowing limpets!

By Siouxsie Wiles 01/04/2015 1


Project Twin Streams community coordinator Derek March holds up a rock for us to see the little limpets
Project Twin Streams community coordinator Derek March holds up a rock for us to see the little limpets (the black splodge by his finger at the top of the photo!)

Several years ago I was interviewed on Radio NZ by Kim Hill for her Playing Favourites segment. Afterwards I was contacted by Stephen Moore, an entomologist at Landcare Research, who told me about Latia neritoides, the world’s only bioluminescent freshwater limpet, which is only found on the North Island of New Zealand. He offered to take me to see it, and later that year I found myself splashing around in the Opanuku Stream. Sadly, Stephen died not that long afterwards, but Project Twin Streams community coordinator Derek March continues in his footsteps, taking the public to see the limpets and experience their bioluminescence.

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of taking Veronika Meduna, from Radio NZ’s weekly science show Our Changing World, to see the limpets with Derek and a group of friends and family. Veronika recorded our trip so you can hear us splashing about and enthusing about the limpets and other wildlife here.

Latia neritoides live on rocks where they feed off organic matter like algae. They release a bright glowing slime when disturbed, which suggests they use it for defense, either to startle or distract their predator. It’s certainly a beautiful sight, even if it is slime!

Latia luminescence. Photo courtesy of Stephen Moore & Landcare Research
Glowing limpet slime. Photo courtesy of Stephen Moore & Landcare Research

One Response to “In search of glowing limpets!”

  • Stephen was a member of the Hamilton Junior Nayturalist Club too, when I was a member. I remember going with him to one of the streams at Te Kauri at night, to look at these Latia sp. too. (I tended to venture out at night to show off the native spiders and the like).

    They’re really impressive, and I’m glad you got the chance to see them with Stephen. He was a really nice guy and a keen naturalist.

    I’m sorry to learn he died. That is, well, tragic. I had no idea.

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