Pelagic Gooseneck Barnacle – Lepas anatifera

Pelagic Gooseneck Barnacle Lepas anatifera image tentacles scuba diving canary islands crustacea species
Pelagic Gooseneck Barnacle (Lepas anatifera) on a buoy rope on El Hierro.

The Pelagic Gooseneck Barnacle is a species in the infraclass of Barnacles (Cirripedia) and thus belongs to the subphylum of Crustacea. Lepas anatifera was first described by Linnaeus in 1759.

Description, Characteristics & Anatomy

The appearance of the Pelagic Gooseneck Barnacle is similar to that of a mussel. Its shell is white, with bright orange or brown edges. In addition, orange stripes may appear on the shell. In total, the animal is enclosed by five limestone slabs. At the lower end, Lepas anatifera is bound to a fixed place by a stem which can be between 4 and 80cm long.

When open, you can see its brown feathered tentacles, which are used for feeding.

The Pelagic Gooseneck Barnacle reaches a maximum size of 5cm.

Habitat & Distribution

Lepas anatifera can be found on rocks, other solid structures or flotsam. It makes no difference whether it is something natural or something artificial, such as a canister. It is also possible to find Lepas anatifera on other creatures such as turtles, whales or crocodiles. The photo above was taken on a buoy rope on El Hierro.

When scuba diving on the Canary Islands you can only observe the Pelagic Gooseneck Barnacle once in a while.

Their general range includes all temperate, subtropical and tropical seas worldwide. The North Atlantic current also pushes them into colder waters, where they do not reproduce. Its core area, however, are waters with a water temperature of more than 18°.

Biology & Feeding

The Pelagic Gooseneck Barnacle lives sessile, i.e. firmly in one place, unless it is removed by something.

With its arms (Cirren) it whirls water to filter it for plankton.

Reproduction & Development

Lepas anatifera is a hermaphrodite and is sexually mature from a size of 2.5cm. After it has been fertilized, the eggs incubate one week inside the barnacle. Afterwards they go through several larvae stage, whereby they freely drift around. Later they attach themselves to a solid object and experience a metamorphosis to barnacle.

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