Whale barnacles

I have a new story up on Scienceline on whale barnacles. Namely: How on Earth do barnacles get onto whales in the first place? The ocean is huge, barnacle larvae are tiny, whales are rare — it seems, as marine biologist John Zardus says in the story, “preposterous.”

Zardus — who is, as far as I can tell, the one guy actually devoted to studying these things — was fun to interview. First of all, his name is “Zardus.” Second of all, when I asked him why he studies commensal barnacles, he didn’t even try to make up anything important-sounding, as some people will. “It’s purely curiosity,” he said. “It’s just such a conundrum, and I want to know why.”

That’s the spirit! (And also maybe why he’s still trying to find grant funding, but whatever.)

Check out the story here.

Blog Exclusive Bonus Barnacle Fact: It’s hard to meet someone nice to mate with when you sit in one place your whole life, but barnacles have surmounted this obstacle by evolving the longest penises relative to body size in the entire animal kingdom. Motion of the ocean, indeed.


About Mara Grunbaum

Science reporter in New York City.
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