Monday, December 28, 2015

Nautical Wheelers... Pelagic Gooseneck Barnacles

I found these travelers on Grayton Beach this summer, during a short trip west.

Their vessel, a short piece of driftwood actually bonked me in the back of the head as I was body surfing some pretty lackluster panhandle waves.
The crew onboard the USS Flotsam, are Pelagic Gooseneck Barnacles, or Lepas anatifera.

Barnacles whether goosenecky or volcano-shaped are "sessile" organisms, which just means they are unable to move about on their own.
Most sessile critters live an attached life and filter feed on the abundant plankton in the ocean.
Barnacles use their modified legs called "cirri" to capture food, while other sessile animals you may be familiar with use tentacles (corals and anemones) or pumps (oysters and mussels).
You can see the cirri extending out of the gooseneck on the left side of the photo above.

Barnacle larvae spend a short time as plankton before finding a suitable substrate like this bit of wood. Once a substrate is found, they glue their heads to it, form their protective cover and kick food into their mouths with their legs (cirri).

I love acting this out in my Marine Science classes when we get to barnacles.

Barnacles are hermaphrodites and begin reproducing at a very young age. This makes pretty good survival sense for organisms who can't swim or crawl around looking for mates.
If I remember correctly, some barnacles have the longest penis in the animal kingdom ... in a size of organ to body ratio. This again is an adaptation to being sessile ... you may have to reach out pretty far to connect with the nearest receptive barnacle.

With their nonCrustaceany appearance, you may not have realized that barnacles are really close cousins to crabs, shrimp, and lobsters. The larger species are eaten and taste like lobster ... no personal experience here, just an observation from watching "Bizarre Foods".

I tossed their ship out into the Gulf several times, but a stiff onshore breeze returned it over and over. 

This is where I last saw them, riding a strong longshore current to the East.


Wally Jones said...

What a great science lesson! I'm gonna hafta look more closely at all that driftwood.

We just returned from visiting my brother in Apalach and I recognized a mural downtown as your header. Neat old boat!

Happy New Year to you and your family!

R.Powers said...

Thanks Wally, Happy New Year to you too!

Lisa Greenbow said...

Fascinating. They are sort of pretty too.

Marilyn Kircus said...

So glad for the barnacle introduction. Fascinating! Now you just need to add the movie of how you act all this behavior out in class and also report on an the barnacle meal you made and ate.

robin andrea said...

Such a beautiful barnacle. For some reason they remind me of a Puffin. Love those colors. So incredibly cool!

threecollie said...

I hope someday to see a video of that Marine Science class reenactment, I do, I do. Meanwhile, your lovely state and all its wonders are on our minds this week as we reminisce about last year when we were there with our toes in the sand....and in the waves. Happy New Year!

Julie Zickefoose said...

I've seen gooseneck barnacles once in my life and I got extraordinariliy excited about it. That barnacle gets a lot of photo-press but you don't see them that much in the wild. Especially if you're a Midwestern landlubber.

I'm with Marilyn and Threecollie on the barnacle behavior demo video. But getting some other visuals from this highly entertaining post that I must quell.

Dunno how I missed it, but love it.


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