Buoyant barnacles drift in from USA
With a number of gales sweeping across Kent and the winter remaining mild and unsettled, there has been much interest in what is being washed up on the tideline in south Kent.
Large numbers of goose barnacles have been found stuck to floats, buoys, driftwood and plastic bottles along the tideline at Dungeness. These are amazing creatures. The shell is around 40mm in size and has frilly bits that sieve the sea water for plankton. They can live up to three years, attach themselves to anything floating in the ocean with a long rubbery foot (called the peduncle), and use currents to travel the ocean. They are truly a pelagic species.
I have come across large clusters attached to large fishing buoys (tagged with Maine USA) and several polystyrene boat buoys registered in the eastern USA, which just shows how far these barnacles have travelled.
If you are incredibly lucky, you might find in the middle of a group of goose barnacles a Columbus crab, which also come from the American side of the Atlantic and hide among the barnacle colonies. Several have been found on Brighton beach and in Dorset, Devon and Cornwall this winter as well as two at Dungeness.
For more information contact Owen Leyshon, Romney Marsh/White Cliffs Countryside Partnership, on 01797 367934 or see www.rmcp.co.uk