Goose Barnacles (Lepas anatifera)

Lepas anatifera, goose barnacles, delaware, sussex county,stalked barnacles, beach combing, flotsam, driftwood critters and animals, barnacle geese
Goose Barnacles on a piece of large composite that washed up on the beach during Hurricane Florence.  There are many different sizes, but some of the largest I have seen.

I have seen many a goose barnacle on floating debris and trash that washes up on a beach.  They are usually small clusters encrusting the edges of driftwood, plastic bottles, and recently a first for me, the end of a fluorescent bulb that washed up on the beach.  The ones I found after Florence are the largest I have seen and it is probably due to Hurricane Florence pushing those warmer southern waters north.

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These goose barnacles (Lepas anatifera ) are the species we find the most, because they are a pelagic species of Goose Barnacle.  That means they live their lives in the open sea attached to anything that floats, unfortunately including trash.  They feed with cirri and the floating action of whatever they are attached to helps them collect food and oxygen.  They are also known as pelagic gooseneck barnacle or smooth gooseneck barnacle.

Lepas anatifera, goose barnacles, delaware, sussex county,stalked barnacles, beach combing, flotsam, driftwood critters and animals, barnacle geese
Goose Barnacles (Lepas anatifera)

The non pelagic barnacles ( Pollicipes pollicipes and Pollicipes polymerus )  will attach themselves to piers and rocks in coastal areas that are well exposed.  They rely on water movement so their cirri can collect food.

Cirri are feathery the looking tentacles that collect food, and exchange oxygen with the surrounding water.  The goose barnacle and all barnacles, extend this tentacle (cirri) and sweep the water for food (phytoplankton and zooplankton).

In some countries the goose barnacle is a delicacy, but not the pelagic ones we find on our beaches.  The species  (Pollicipes pollicipes and Pollicipes polymerus) found on the coasts of Spain and Portugal are a delicacy that can cost up to eighty dollars a pound.  Remind me never to complain about clam prices again in Delaware.

Goose Barnacles extending their cirri in a puddle on the beach.

 

How they got their name is kind of hilarious, but typical of the time period when it came to scientific observations.  First off a species of goose was called a barnacle.   Back in the day (early 1200’s) it was believed that Barnacle Geese were hatched from these barnacles.  Yup, a bird hatching from a barnacle, but wait there’s more.   Since no one knew anything about migratory birds in the early 1100 to 1500’s, it was assumed that barnacle geese did not nest, and that these barnacles were somehow their eggs.  This observation was mostly based on the color scheme of that particular barnacle and the goose as well as the feathery plume (cirri) that looked like a feather.  That resembled a baby bird to observers who thought there was bird within the shells.  The explanation why the barnacles would be found on pieces of timber that washed up on the beaches in England was … drum roll …  They thought the barnacle geese laid their eggs on branches, and these would sometimes fall into the water.   Science can be an amazing thing during that time period, the world was still believed to be flat.

Fish On!

Rich King

 
 

 

Lepas anatifera, goose barnacles, delaware, sussex county,stalked barnacles, beach combing, flotsam, driftwood critters and animals, barnacle geese
Goose Barnacles (Lepas anatifera)

Goose Barnacles (Lepas anatifera)

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Subphylum: Crustacea
Class: Maxillopoda
Infraclass: Cirripedia
Order: Pedunculata
Family: Lepadidae
Genus: Lepas
Species: L. anatifera
Binomial name
Lepas anatifera

 

 

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