Why Barnacles?

Most people who work with me know I work on barnacles. Of course, I study a lot of things - in the past few years my lab has had projects pertaining to corals, polychaetes, cladocerans, isopods, seastars, fishes, and certainly barnacles (that’s five phyla, plus I was co-author on an Apicomplexan phylogeny paper for six!). But as somebody who is interested in how passively-dispersing larvae interact with the environment, including ocean currents, physiological gradients, competition for space, and so on, barnacles are really a nice choice. They’re hermaphroditic, sessile, fecund, and easy to find. They were the choice taxon of Charles Darwin. They suggest endless questions of morphological plasticity (and stasis!), adaptation, speciation, and biogeography. They keep intertidal rocks from being too slippery to stand on. And, for some at least - I haven’t yet been anywhere that I could do this - they’re really tasty. Of course I am most interested in what the nauplius larvae are doing, and there isn’t much of a meal in things that are less than 500 microns in size, so next time I’m in Chile I guess I better find a market that serves up the adults!

In other news, Penny Haddrill’s work in my backyard (the Five Points Biological Station) has confirmed not only that we have an abundance of D. melanogaster (if only they could outcompete the mosquitoes), but also the recent invader Zaprionus, an attractive but destructive little fly that will apparently be a problem for my peach tree in years to come. If anybody has ideas for some good evolutionary ecology to be done on a backyard that looks wild but is predominantly composed of invasive species, I guess the FPBS is the place to be.