Determine the relationship barnacles clinging on a whale

Symbiotic Sea Life

Symbiotic relationships between marine creatures are fascinating to Barnacles and whales have a different type of symbiotic relationship that is known as commensalism. Cleaning stations represent another form of mutualism, and Find a Dive Center or Resort · Replace Your Certification Card · Get. Those patchy white spots you see on gray whales are barnacles. Barnacles find the slow-swimming gray whale a good ride through How would you describe the connection between the whale, the whale lice and the barnacles?. Well, that's exactly how barnacles spend most of their lives. If you walk along the sea shore, you can find barnacles on almost any solid surface that gets covered.

Barnacles track whale migration

These colonies are the large whitish patches you may spot on humpbacks and right whales, particularly on their head, flippers, back and tails. For example, the barnacle Coronula diadema is only found on humpback whale skin.

Barnacles covering a humpback whale. Though technically the barnacles are parasites, neither harm nor benefit is done to their benevolent host by their free ride.

This type of relationship is called commensalism, where one species benefits from an interaction, while the other remains unaffected.

A mature humpback whale might host as much as kg of barnacles! One potential benefit to the whales has been proposed by scientists — when male humpbacks are fighting each other over females by charging and ramming one another, a sharp barnacle coating may prove rather handy. How do barnacles get onto whales in the first place? New barnacles covering a humpback whale calf. Barnacles release up to 20, spawn and these can survive for several weeks in the water.

Whale barnacle

The mystery of a humpback's tubercles One characteristic of being a mammal is the presence of hair, and yes, whales are no exception.

After selecting a spot, the barnacle secures itself head-first to the surface with a brown glue. This glue is so strong, the barnacle's cone base is left behind long after the creature has died. Dentists are now studying this glue for its adhesive properties. Now the larva is ready to grow into an adult and build its tough housing.

From "The Intertidal Zone. The barnacle secretes the calcium-hard plates which totally encase them. These white cones have six nearly fitted plates that form a circle around the crustacean. Four more plates form a "door" which the barnacle can open or close, depending on the tide.

  • Pondering Parasites
  • The Symbiotic Relationship Between a Barnacle Living on a Whale's Skin
  • Symbiotic Sea Life

When the tide goes out, the barnacle closes shop to conserve moisture. As the tide comes in, a muscle opens up these four plates, and the feathery legs of the barnacle sift the water for food.

Whale barnacle - Wikipedia

All six pairs of these feather-like feeding appendages, called cirri, are jointed and set with sensory hairs which brush through the water collecting plankton for the barnacle to eat. The legs also have gills for gas exchange.

Not only does the growing barnacle have to deal with its surrounding house, it is also constrained by its own shell made from chitin, the same material as lobster shells and insect exoskeletons. A Whale of a Ride For the entirety of the barnacles' lives they'll exist as diminutive hitchhikers on the backs and bellies of whales.

They derive two basic benefits from this commensalistic relationship. As filter feeders, they depend on the availability of plankton, which they filter into their bodies through feather-like appendages extended through holes in their shells. When the whales swim into plankton-rich waters to feed, so do the barnacles.

They are consistently carried from feeding to feeding. Protection from predators is another benefit. Barnacles attached to stationary objects often fall prey to fish, sea worms, starfish and snails.

However, the whale-riding barnacles enjoy a certain degree of protection from the mobility of their enormous bodyguards.

The Whale's Perspective For the most part, whale barnacles are harmless, even in astoundingly large numbers.