En-crustaceans: Another Place for barnacles

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After spending an enjoyable but unproductive day at the Ainsdale Nature Reserve on the Merseyside coast looking for signs that the natterjack toads had started breeding (they hadn’t) we decided to use the last couple of hours of the day to re-visit Antony Gormley’s installation on the beach at Crosby, a few miles south.  Named “Another Place” it consists of 100 figures spread over a two mile stretch of the beach, each figure being a life-size replica of the artist.

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Statue head with barnacles

More to the point, the figures are submerged in the ocean at high tide and, as a result, have built up an impressive encrustation of marine invertebrates, mostly barnacles and mussels.  The barnacles are not one of our native species, but an invasive one, Austrominius modestus, (previously known as Elminius modestus) originating in Australia and first arriving on the British coast during the Second World War, probably in bilge water of visiting ships.  In the 70-odd years since, it has spread around the coast.  Prior to the “Another Place” installation it would have had little chance of colonising the Crosby shoreline as there are no rocks or other solid surfaces on which it could have settled.  The presence of 100 cast-iron statues changed all that so I suppose you could say that thanks to Mr Gormley the barnacles have found “Another Place” in which to live.

Barnacles, Austrominius modestus, an invasive species, growing on one of the statues

Barnacles, Austrominius modestus, an invasive species, growing on one of the statues

 

For the sake of completeness, these are the native acorn barnacles, Balanus balanoides, photographed in Northumberland

For the sake of comparison, these are the native acorn barnacles, Semibalanus balanoides, photographed in Northumberland

Zoological note: despite their appearance, barnacles are crustaceans, related to shrimps, crabs and so on.  They occur in three basic forms: acorn barnacles, one of which is the subject of this article, and which are encased in four or six hard bony plates with a small aperture at the top; goose barnacles, characterised by a long “neck”; and a parasitic barnacle, Sacculina carcini, that attaches itself to crabs, especially the shore crab, and looks like a little yellow bean stuck to its underside.

Photographically-speaking barnacles are not among the most challenging subjects.  To all intents and purposes they don’t move, and they are often stuck to a flat surface, so depth of field is not a problem as long as they are perfectly aligned.  A macro lens helps, as does a tripod.  If you stand the tripod in damp sand be sure to rinse it off in fresh water as soon as possible to prevent a build-up of grit and corrosion.

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