Pollicipes, Magical in the Morning

Sunlight penetrates the mouth of an intertidal cave, illuminating the goose-neck barnacles within. The morning rays particularly light up hemoglobin in the barnacle’s blood.


Lamb and Hanby (2005) make quite a deal about the glorious red blood of Nakwakto goose-necks from Slingsby Channel, British Columbia, Canada. The striking blood of Nakwaktos is visible, supposedly, because this subtidal form lacks the protective black pigment present in intertidal populations that experience sun exposure.

Let’s compare. The photo below shows typical Pollicipes on exposed rocks near the cave on the same morning.


Are my cave-dwelling Pollicipes all the more magical in the morning because they lack protective pigments?


Lamb, A. and B. P. Hanby. 2005. Marine Life of the Pacific Northwest. Harbour Publishing.

Note: While I was researching this phenomenon, I noticed that the Biodiversity of the Central Coast’s Pollicipes page shows images of red goose-neck barnacles from a sea cave on Calvert Island. Biodiversity of the Central Coast is a great site. You should keep it on your intertidal radar.

Magical Light


  1. I love your posts but for my eyes it’s really hard to read the small white print on the black background. I’m going to keep trying, though!

    1. I played around with the font, so it’s larger now, at least on my computer. If you read my posts on your computer you should notice an improvement. If you read it on your phone, I haven’t solved that yet, but I’n sure it can be done. Thanks again for alerting me.

    1. The hemoglobin story is strange indeed. I haven’t seen any real documentation. Until I do, it’s a “just so” story. Thank you for commenting on the images. But, to be honest, if any animal is photo-friendly, it’s a goose-neck barnacle.

    1. Now that you mention it, I completely agree. Thanks! Incidentally, this species of goose-neck, Pollicipes polymerus, is friendly to me, photographically speaking.

    1. Sure does look the part! I don’t know barnacle anatomy well enough to give you the scoop, but we know it’s highly vascular. I’ll get back to you if I get a name for it. For now, lipstick!

  2. So, is it an adaptation where the barnacle doesn’t produce the protective pigment because the pigment costs resources or is it a mutation that only survives out of direct sunlight? This is the question I want answered, but it appears that it won’t be according to your other comments.

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