It is one of the world's strangest and smallest sea creatures, growing to no bigger than the size of a lentil.
But the tiny pteropod, with its translucent shell, could help scientists understand how marine animals will respond to the stresses of climate change.
Thousands of the molluscs, also known as sea butterflies because of their wing-like lobes, have been collected from the shallows of Antarctica.
After flying the samples thousands of kilometres to her laboratory at the University of California, Santa Barbara, marine biologist Dr Gretchen Hofmann plans to sequence the animal's genome.
She hopes to find genes and molecular pathways that might predict how shelled creatures will respond to warmer, more acidic oceans.
"They're a shelled organism, they make a shell just like a mussel or an oyster does," she explains.
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