Friday Harbor Marine Laboratories, University of Washington
San Juan Island, Washington
Archival Pigment Print
The origin of this barnacle’s name involves a European bird—the barnacle goose—and a misunderstanding about its life history that persisted into the seventeenth century. Medieval scholars, unaware that the geese migrated to the Arctic, puzzled over the fact that they never saw them nesting. They solved the enigma with the most egregious zoological error I know of: They deduced that young geese “hatched” out from between the shells of stalked barnacles (the word “barnacle” comes from the goose—not vice versa). As for the barnacles’ true affinities, the jointed appendages seen raking the water in the photograph are a giveaway: They’re crustaceans that live attached to rocks and use their legs to gather food from the plankton.