Barnacle penises are really fascinating

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By the time we see them—usually while doing boat maintenance—barnacles hardly seem alive. Even when they are more active, these animals are basically immobile. So you'd never suspect that barnacles are the species with the longest penis, relative to body size, in the world. That long filament in the photo above? That's a barnacle penis. Even more astounding: ThisCreature Cast video that shows barnacle penises in action, reaching out to investigate and (hopefully) mate with, nearby barnacles.

Naturally, where there are giant penises, there are experts who dedicate their lives to the study of giant penises. Southern Fried Science has a nice write up about the most recent discoveries published by J. Matthew Hoch, barnacle penis researcher.

Some of his interesting findings were that both wave action (yes! the motion in the ocean... this makes SO much more sense to me now). His study organism, the Atlantic acorn barnacle, Semibalanus balanoides, is known to have a penis with a exoskeleton with "accordion-like folds" that allows it to stretch to many times its relaxed length in order to find a mate.

Barnacles on wave exposed shores grow larger and their penises grow thicker/wider. They aren't necessarily longer than those that live in protected sites, nor do they have more folds allowing them to stretch greater distances. They just have thicker penises. This is likely a result of the water action. These barnacles have to have thicker penises for more support, making them less likely to break in the wave action and more likely to produce successful mating attempts.

Anyway, that's what Hoch is up to. The photo in this post was taken by another barnacle penis researcher (yes, there is more than one!) named Chris Neufeld who works out of the University of Alberta. He's found that stout-penised barnacles aren't the genetic result of generations of barnacles evolving to live in choppy water. Rather, the penises are pliable. No matter what kind of penis its parent had, a barnacle that finds itself living in rough water will develop a thick penis.

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  1. Just curious, but back in the 80s when I did boat work I always wondered what the impact on the environment lead paint had. Do they have an alternative now?

  2. The main question is: if their penis breaks off do they grow another one? Otherwise I can’t imagine why they would want to mate at all in turbulent water.

    Also this URL set off my office’s 1984-inspired web filter, but so do swear words in Spanish, so it’s a bit sensitive to say the least.

    -teapot

  3. “there are experts who dedicate their lives to the study of giant penises…”

    There are also experts who dedicate their lives to the study of Barnacles: one interesting example is Charles Darwin, who focused mostly on Barnacles for a significant part of his career.

  4. Sorry — but I had to…it’s not really productive to the discussion – but laughs – er sorry – lulz are importantz.
    ———————————————————————–
    Please, let me introduce:

    BARNACLE BILL

    Let’s give him a hand!

    “Who’s that knocking at my door? Who’s that knocking at my door?
    Who’s that knocking at my door?” said the fair Young Maiden…

    “It’s me and my crew and we’ve come for a screw!” said Barnacle Bill the Sailor.
    “It’s me and my crew and we’ve come for a screw!” said Barnacle Bill the Sailor.

    Alternate Responses:
    “It’s only me from over the sea” said Barnacle Bill the Sailor.
    “It’s only me from over the sea” said Barnacle Bill the Sailor.

    ” open the door, you pox-ridden whore!” said Barnacle Bill the Sailor.
    ” open the door, you pox-ridden whore!” said Barnacle Bill the Sailor.

    “Open the door, you dirty whore!” said Barnacle Bill the Sailor.
    “Open the door, you dirty whore!” said Barnacle Bill the Sailor.

    “What if I should lock the door? What if I should lock the door?
    What if I should lock the door?” said the fair Young Maiden….

    “I’ll smash the lock with my diamond-hard cock!” said Barnacle Bill the Sailor.
    “I’ll smash the lock with my diamond-hard cock!” said Barnacle Bill the Sailor.

    “What if my parents should come home? What if my parents come home?
    What if my parents should come home?” said the fair Young Maiden….

    “I’ll kill your pa and then your ma!” said Barnacle Bill the Sailor.
    “I’ll kill your pa and then your ma!” said Barnacle Bill the Sailor.

    “Are you young and handsome, Sir? Are you young and handsome, Sir?”
    Are you young and handsome, Sir?” said the fair Young Maiden.

    “I’m old and rough and dirty and tough!” said Barnacle Bill the Sailor.
    “I’m old and rough and dirty and tough!” said Barnacle Bill the Sailor.

    “What is your intention, sir? What is your intention, sir?
    What is your intention, sir?” said the fair Young Maiden.

    “Oh, off with your shirt, so you doesn’t get hurt!” said Barnacle Bill the Sailor.
    “Oh, off with your shirt, so you doesn’t get hurt!” said Barnacle Bill the Sailor.

    “Will you take me to the dance? Will you take me to the dance?
    Will you take me to the dance?” said the fair Young Maiden….

    “To Hell with the dance! Now off with your pants!” said Barnacle Bill the Sailor.
    “To Hell with the dance! Now off with your pants!” said Barnacle Bill the Sailor.

    “Will you vow to marry me? Will you vow to marry me?
    Will you vow to marry me?” said the fair Young Maiden….

    ” no, we won’t wed. Getcher ass in the bed!” said Barnacle Bill the Sailor.
    ” no, we won’t wed. Getcher ass in the bed!” said Barnacle Bill the Sailor.

    “What’s that thing between your legs?” What’s that thing between your legs?
    “What’s that thing between your legs?” said the fair young maiden.

    “It’s only me pole to shove in your holes!” said Barnacle Bill the Sailor.
    “It’s only me pole to shove in your holes!” said Barnacle Bill the Sailor.

    “What if I should have a child? What if I should have a child?
    What if I should have a child?” said the fair Young Maiden.

    “We’ll smother the bugger and for another!” said Barnacle Bill the Sailor.
    “We’ll smother the bugger and for another!” said Barnacle Bill the Sailor.

  5. Darwin’s work on barnacles (Cirripedia), conducted between 1846 and 1854, has long posed problems for historians. Darwin’s study of cirripedes, far from being merely a dry, taxonomic exercise, was a highly theoretical work that addressed several problems at the forefront of contemporary natural history.geological history of barnacles can be traced back to animals such as Priscansermarinus from the Middle Cambrian (on the order of 510 to 500 million years ago although they do not become common as skeletal remains in the fossil record until the Neogene (last 20 million years) and Barnacles can play an important role in estimating palæo-water depths. The degree of disarticluation of fossils suggests the distance they have been transported, and since many species have narrow ranges of water depths, it can be assumed that the animals lived in shallow water and broke up as they were washed down-slope.

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