Monday, September 12, 2011

More Than I Needed To Know About Barnacles

Yes, I got out on the water this weekend. Nothing unusual, just a nice ordinary summer afternoon on the water. Instead of writing about that, though, I thought this was a chance to mention barnacles.
Barnacles are the bane of a fine kayak's existance. Well, maybe not the bane, but they're a danger to a fine finish on a kayak, anyway. Well, they are if the kayaker makes a habit of paddling along shorelines and in rock gardens.
And I do. My Eliza kayak from Necky has left skinny curls of pink plastic on barnacled rocks pretty much everywhere we go.

I can remember the first time John took his new blue Delta 14 kayak along the shoreline between Telegraph Bay and Gordon Head... He paused to take a photo of an eagle and got a little distracted. Sure enough, his kayak drifted over a rock that hid just under the surface of the water. The boomer had a couple of barnacles on it, and one scratched a line that went an embarrassing distance along the hull. Two years later, he sold that kayak, but a month later I spotted it on someone else's car roof rack. You know how I recognised it... yup, by that light but distinctive scratch.
Yeah, yeah, it's not the barnacles' fault. Those immobile little arthropods don't leap up and actively scratch my boat. If I kept a better eye on the rocks, there'd be no problem at all. So I decided to learn more about barnacles, since there are a lot of them in places I like to go. And besides, they look kind of neat when the tide comes in and all their feathery little feet come out to reach around, looking for food.
Something came to mind that biologist Amy Groesbeck told me when we were taking a clam sample in Waiatt Bay this summer. A researcher at Bamfield Marine Research Station has been learning things about barnacles that most of us will never get to see. Apparently, while barnacles are all hermaphrodites, their male equipment is more than one would expect, based on their body size. And adaptable to wave conditions. They're one of the few immobile species that has to couple, and well, that's about as far as I can take this story.
But don't let it end there. Check out the video that's been posted showing a romantic barnacle interlude.

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