What is the relationship between whales and barnacles

Symbiotic Sea Life

what is the relationship between whales and barnacles

Another type of relationship between two species is called Barnacles on some types of whales have a commensal relationship. The barnacle-whale relationship is generally considered to be obligate . relationship between endangered whales and the barnacles, but the. Symbiotic relationships between marine creatures are fascinating to Barnacles and whales have a different type of symbiotic relationship that.

They derive two basic benefits from this commensalistic relationship.

what is the relationship between whales and barnacles

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. 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.

  • The Symbiotic Relationship Between a Barnacle Living on a Whale's Skin
  • Symbiotic Sea Life
  • What's on that whale?

On some whales, too many barnacles can cause drag. Minor skin irritations or infections may arise.

Whale barnacle - Wikipedia

On the plus side, the barnacles can actually protect the whales, like a suit of armor. Gray whales have been known to roll over when under attack from other whales, presenting their enemies with a back covered in hard, spiny, immovable soldiers.

The largest tapeworm in the world was found in a whale, and measured over 30 metres long! Another type of relationship between two species is called commensalism, where one species benefits from an interaction, while the other remains unaffected. Barnacles on some types of whales have a commensal relationship. 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.

How Do Barnacles Attach to Whales?

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.

Whale barnacle

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. 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.

what is the relationship between whales and barnacles

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.