Rock licking kneecaps

Limpets. Their traces are everywhere on the stones on Westray’s beaches. The name limpet means ‘rock-licker’ and that’s what they do, with a radula, or ‘tongue’ which has the strongest natural substance yet discovered by humans (yes, stronger than spider silk). Here, they’ve made small depressions in the stone with the edge of their shells; tiny traces of small lives.

Limpet traces

I’ve known for years that the scientific name for the Common Limpet was Patella vulgata, but it only just occurred to me that patella means kneecap. Rock licking kneecaps, that’s what limpets are. I’ll never look at limpets the same way again.

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