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Five Things to Know About Barnacles
Barnacles can add enough weight and friction to a boat’s hull to actually slow the vessel down. Read on to learn more about these clingy sea creatures.
They’re masters of pioneering. Barnacles start out as crab-like larvae floating in the ocean. Once they’re ready to settle down, they secrete a glue-like substance that helps them attach to a bare surface—such as a hull, a rock, or even a whale—where they’ll spend most of their lives. Over time, they secrete layers of calcium carbonate to create a protective shell around themselves.
Their glue is one of the strongest natural adhesives. What’s more, the adhesive grows stronger over time, which makes removing barnacles quickly a priority for most boat owners. Boats can be scraped clean on land using a stainless steel brush or pressure washer, but painting the hull with a copper- or tin-based paint can help prevent barnacles from hitching a ride in the first place.
They’re incredibly lazy. Once they find a place to stay, barnacles rarely—if ever—detach from that spot. Just as roommates subsist entirely on nearby pizza boxes, barnacles feed themselves by scooping plankton into their mouths with tiny appendages called cirri.
One might spend its life as a single dad—and mom. Barnacles are hermaphrodites, which means they contain both male and female reproductive parts. Since they rarely—and often never—move, many barnacles simply reproduce on their own. However, romance can blossom between two barnacles, as long as they’re close enough together.
They taste like lobster. Barnacles are crustaceans, too, and their meat has a similarly sweet taste. Many cultures around the world consider them a delicacy.