barnacle

Shelled and Shell-less Barnacles

Barnacles with a calcareous shell (order Thoracica) include the gooseneck barnacles, which are attached to the substrate by means of a stalk, or peduncle, and the acorn, or rock, barnacles, which are attached directly to the substrate. The stalk of gooseneck barnacles is simply an elongation of the attached end of the animal's body. In some gooseneck barnacles the stalk as well as the body is covered by calcareous plates; in others it is a naked leathery or horny structure. A gooseneck barnacle found in large numbers on ships and pilings is Lepas, which has a leathery stalk and flattened shell and looks like a small clam attached by its siphon.

Balanus is an acorn barnacle commonly found on rocks; it has a thick conical shell attached at its wide base, with an opening at the top. As in many of the acorn barnacles, the plates of the surrounding carapace form an impenetrable wall, and the opening is equipped with two movable plates that can be pulled down to close off the body completely.

In both gooseneck and acorn barnacles the feathery legs of the animal may sometimes be seen protruding through the carapace opening. When the animal feeds, these jointed legs, called cirri, sweep organic particles and minute planktonic organisms toward the mouth, which is located deeper inside the shell. The attached end of the animal is its anterior, or head region: the barnacle has been described as a shrimplike animal standing on its head in a limestone house and kicking food into its mouth with its feet. Barnacles lack gills; gas exchange occurs through the cirri and the body wall. Some shelled barnacles are commensal, attaching themselves to living animals such as whales, porpoises, turtles, crustaceans, and echinoderms. The gooseneck barnacle Conchoderma may be found growing on the acorn barnacle Coronula, which grows on the skin of whales.

Besides the shelled barnacles there are naked barnacles (orders Ascothoracica and Rhizocephala), which live on, and in some cases parasitize, other invertebrate animals. There are also shell-less boring barnacles (order Acrothoracica), which live inside holes that they drill in shells and corals.

Sections in this article:

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

More on barnacle Shelled and Shell-less Barnacles from Fact Monster:

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Zoology: Invertebrates