The Goose Necked Barnacle: The Solway Firth
Wildlife of the Solway Firth by Mark Vollers
The Goose Necked Barnacle Lepas anatifera
This curious and unusual ocean living crustacean is found in tropical and subtropical seas worldwide, attaching itself in sometimes large colonies to pieces of flotsam like wood, bottles and even the hulls of slow moving ships. The shell may grow to be 5cm long.
Sometimes, particularly after a long period of strong westerly winds they are cast up on our Solway Firth strandline where they soon perish unless rescued by passers- by. This has certainly been the case this Winter with members of the public bringing examples into the aquarium at Maryport for identification.
We have as a result been able to keep a good number alive and on display in special tanks with currents to keep their food in suspension.
Within the bunch of barnacles we noticed a strange looking crab which is called the Columbus crab.
This has evolved to take advantage of the shelter and food on offer.
The common name derives from it’s long flexible stalk ( peduncle) which is it’s method of attachment and can be up to 30cm long . In olden times before we knew that Barnacle geese bred in the Arctic, a plausible explanation took hold that this barnacle was in fact the juvenile stage of this goose!
They filter the water by grasping movements of their modified legs which work like a sieve to capture plankton and other passing organic matter. In some countries they are collected and eaten as a delicacy.