Barnacles on whales relationship

Barnacle | Pacific Whale Foundation

barnacles on whales relationship

Barnacles regularly colonize the skin of filter-feeding whales, and they often The barnacle-whale relationship is generally considered to be. Those patchy white spots you see on gray whales are barnacles. How would you describe the connection between the whale, the whale lice and the. Barnacles and whales have a different type of symbiotic relationship that is known as commensalism. Commensalism describes a situation.

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.

barnacles on whales relationship

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.

Whale barnacle

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.

For example, one humpback whale can host 1, pounds of barnacles without any problems. However, a few exceptions to the rules of commensalism can occur. On some whales, too many barnacles can cause drag.

What's on that whale? | WildWhales

Minor skin irritations or infections may arise. On the plus side, the barnacles can actually protect the whales, like a suit of armor. The barnacles benefit from having a place to settle and filter food from the passing water, while the whales do not seem to suffer any negative consequences from their presence. Unbelievably, one healthy humpback whale was found to have kg of barnacles growing on it! Although that seems like quite a heavy load, that amount of weight for a whale would be the equivalent of a human wearing shorts and a t-shirt.

In some situations, this barnacle coverage can actually act like a suit of armour. By rolling, they present the attacking whales with a back full of hard, sharp barnacles — a much tougher surface to penetrate.

How Do Barnacles Attach to Whales? | Scienceline

Have you seen grey or white patches of barnacles on whale skin? It is not known exactly how young barnacles latch on to a whale in the middle of the ocean, but researchers think that whale skin may release a chemical cue that free-swimming larval barnacles are able to detect, somehow initiating the settling process.

barnacles on whales relationship

Exactly how that cue works though is something that researchers are still trying to figure out. Living with lice Unlike barnacles, whale lice can only be transferred between animals through bodily contact.

These legs look similar to those of human louse, which is exactly where they got their name from. In the s, whalers noticed the small creatures and thought they looked and moved like human lice. They assumed they must be the same type of animal, only much larger, as they can grow up to 19mm in size.

Many mysteries still surround whale lice, but we do know they are highly specialized.

barnacles on whales relationship

Many types of whale lice can only be found on one species of whale. Grey and humpback whales each have their own variety!