Goose Barnacles

A few days ago my wife and I were walking along the beach under the cliffs at Hengistbury Head near Bournemouth. It was a beautiful sunny day – in fact a fine way to welcome in 2013. From quite some distance our eyes were drawn to a piece of sea carried debris on the littoral zone. It bobbed up and down a bit as larger waves tried to wash it further up the beach. We wondered what on earth it could be.

It proved to be, when we got there, a piece of sponge foam – probably rather a nasty piece of stuff to have floating in the sea. At least, that was what we thought. It was man made and surely was not going to do sea creatures any good. But it didn’t take much examination to discover a big cluster of amazing shelled creatures. They were beautiful and we had no idea what they were. Another pair of people joined us. They, too, thought they were beautiful, but had no idea as to just what they were.

‘We’ll have to look them up when we get home’, we decided. But first, some pictures.


That’s the beach and cliffs at Hengistbury Head. You can see Bournemouth in the background and our co- interested folk studying the piece of sponge foam.


I was going to say that there was a cluster of clams. I thought they might be clams, but I was wrong. So it’s a cluster of critters!


And there’s just a few of them, firmly embedded into the foam by their rather worm like ‘foot’.

They are goose or gooseneck barnacles. I’ve borrowed a short paragraph from the BBC nature site at

Goose barnacles are odd-looking crustaceans usually found in quite deep water. Occasionally they can be found on debris that has become dislodged from the sea bed and washed up on the shore. They are found in oceans the world over, except in Arctic regions.

Although I am quoting from a web site, actually, a book proved much more useful in the initial identification. Using the power of the web can be very hard when you have no idea at all what you are looking for.

As a former goose keeper, I can see where the name of these comes from. There is something goose-like about the shape. Apparently our forebears thought they were some kind of larval stage in the life of geese! That would have been the barnacle goose, of course.

I had always thought that barnacles were rather dull looking little things that clung to rocks – a kind of small version of the limpet. I was not aware of this wonderful creature – the goose barnacle.

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5 Responses to “Goose Barnacles”

  1. Carol Says:

    How strange! But as you say, rather wonderful.

  2. rose2852 Says:

    I have seen this type of barnacle on mooring ropes in fairly shallow water.

    • locksands Says:

      Hi Rose and thanks. I knew nothing of these creatueres and so go by the book and other wisdom which says, deep water. On the other hand there is a web video of some chaps in Spain grabbing them from cliffs as waves go out. It looks lunatic to me.
      Do you see them in Oz? That makes them pretty well world wide so they must be very successful creatures.

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