You might say this is a strange title – “meet the barnacle” – because everyone knows what a barnacle is… or do they?
As a marine science instructor, I gave my students what is called a lab practical. This is a test where you move around the room and answer questions about different creatures preserved in jars. Almost every time that got to the barnacle they were stumped. I mean they knew it was a barnacle but what kind of animal is it? What phylum is it in?
Going through a thought process they would more often than not choose that it was a mollusk. This makes perfect sense because of the calcium carbonate shell it produces. As a matter of fact, science thought it was a mollusk until 1830 when the larval stage was discovered, and they knew they were dealing with something different. It is not a mollusk. So… what IS it? Let’s meet the barnacle…
The barnacle is actually an arthropod. Yep… the same group as crabs and shrimp, insects and spiders. Weird right…
But that is because the creature down within that calcium carbonate shell is more like a tiny shrimp than an oyster. It is in the class Cirripedia within the subphylum Crustacea. It is the only animal in this class and the only sessile (non-motile) crustacean.
Barnacles are exclusively marine. This has been helpful when conducting surveys for terrapins or assessing locations for living shorelines – if you see barnacles growing on rocks, shells, or pilings, it is salty enough. There are over 900 species described and they live independently from each other attached to seawalls, rocks, pilings, boats, even turtle shells. Louis Agassiz described the barnacle as “nothing more than a little shrimplike creature, standing on its head in a limestone house kicking food into its mouth.”
The planktonic barnacle larva settles to the bottom and attaches to a hard substrate using a cement produced from a gland near the base of their first set of antenna (crustaceans, unlike insects and spiders, have two sets of antenna). It is usually head down/tail up and begins to secrete limestone plates forming the well known “shell” of the animal. Some barnacles produce a long stalk near the head end (called the peduncle) which holds the adhesive gland and it is the peduncle that attaches to the hard substrate, not the head directly. The goose neck barnacle is an example of this. We find them most often in the wrack along the Gulf side of our beaches attached to driftwood or marine debris.
The “shell” of the barnacle is a series of calcium carbonate plates they secrete. These plates overlap and are connected by either a membrane or interlocking “teeth”. The body lies 90° from the point of attachment on its back.
There are six pairs of “legs” which are very long and are extended out of the “doors” of the shell and make a sweeping motion to collect planktonic food in the water column. They are most abundant in the intertidal areas were there are rocks, seawalls, or pilings.
Most species are hermaphroditic (possessing both sperm and egg) but cross fertilization is generally the rule. Barnacles signal whether they are acting males or females via pheromones and fertilization occurs internally, the gametes are not discharged into the water column as in some mollusks and corals. The developing eggs brood internally as well. Our local barnacle (Balanus) breeds in the fall and the larva (nauplius) are released into the water column in the spring by the tens of thousands. The larva goes through a series of metamorphic changes until it settles on a hard substrate and becomes the adult we know. They usually settle in dense groups in order to enhance internal fertilization for the next generation. Those who survive the early stages of life will live between two and six years.
So, there you go… this is what a barnacle is… a shrimplike crustacean who is attached to the bottom by its head, secretes a fortress of calcium carbonate plates around itself, and feeds on plankton with its long extending legs. A pretty cool creature.
Barnes, R.D. 1980. Invertebrate Zoology. Saunders College Publishing. Philadelphia PA. pp. 1089.
What do ice cream, make-up, paint, plastic, air freshener, laundry detergent, cellophane, and rayon fabric have in common? They all have pine tree in them. There are hundreds of products that contain the cellulose or sap from the pine tree species native to Florida’s panhandle, particularly Longleaf and Slash pines.
Early foresters of the 1800’s discovered these pine species that grew tall and strong. In fact, Longleaf pines were so overharvested that there is only about 3% of the original forests remaining today. These trees not only provided a huge resource for lumber, they also supplied the fluids necessary to support the timber industry – turpentine. By “cat-facing” (cutting downward angled slashes) the trunk of pine trees, the sap would flow into collection cups placed on the trunks. It was collected and heated.
Turpentine is a fluid obtained by the distillation of resin harvested from pine trees. As a solvent, it is used for thinning oil-based paint, for producing varnishes, and as a raw material for the chemical industry. Add some beeswax and it becomes furniture wax. In the early years, turpentine mixed with coal oil and kerosene was used as a topical wound dressing and lice treatment. Add some animal fats to make primitive vapor rub.
Terpene is the scientific term coined in 1866 to denote all hydrocarbons with the formula C10H16. The word was a shortened form of “terpentine”, the obsolete spelling of “turpentine”. Terpenes are major biosynthetic building blocks for the oils in plants. For the plants, these oils play a critical role in defense against herbivory, build disease resistance, and aid in attracting pollinators. When the resin of pine trees (turpentine) is distilled, each of the terpenes can be separated. Based on there formulation, the terpenes are the base for fragrances and flavoring in numerous consumer products. With various heating treatments, many “fresh scented” cleaning products and antiseptics can be produced. Others terpenes will add “taste” to ice cream, chewing gum, and even beer. The cellulose separated from the turpentine is used to provide “structure” to cosmetics, fabrics, impact-resistant plastics, and modern digital display screens.
Who knew that you could get so many uses from pine trees. They are not just for making 2 x 4s anymore. In fact, the 1939 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to the scientist that sorted out the 55,000 terpene compounds from turpentine. You may never look at a pine tree (or your beer) the same way again.
Most of us have had the displeasure of hurrying to our car, late for some appointment, climbing in, only to be assaulted by…sniff-sniff…the overpowering stench of doggy poo on a shoe. I can handle many of nature’s nasty smells pretty well but this one nearly gags me. Imagine if this stuff never went away and kept accumulating on the ground. For any of us that have even one big dog, this would be a problem. Heaven help the dog lovers out there with two or more large canines. Well, this article will be paying homage to the unsung heroes of the manure-removal squad, who could give Mike Rowe a run for his money any day. You guessed it, dung beetles.
Dung beetles are most assuredly not the only critters who make their living by what we would consider disgusting means. Carrion beetles, fly maggots, vultures and many other creatures would qualify for an episode of “Dirty Jobs in the Animal Kingdom.” However, the incredible beauty of many species of scarab beetles (the group to which dung beetles belong), resulted in high reverence in the ancient Egyptian culture. In more recent times, humans have realized the benefits provided by dung beetles and have intentionally introduced them in some places to manage dung accumulation in pasture systems. Their tunneling not only takes the dung below for a nutrient recycling function but also brings soil castings to the surface, which reduces soil compaction and improves aeration.
I have seen dung beetles many times, as they work in the yard to reduce my chances of “stepping in it.” Until recently, I have not paid close attention to the incredible beauty of our local species. I had a great opportunity the other day to observe several beetles as they reduced a pile of dog mess to smaller messes and pulled them into their tunnels for long-term storage. The showy, metallic colors of red and green made it apparent why some refer to these creatures as “rainbow” scarabs. They were happy to ignore my presence as I took pictures only inches away from their frenzied activity to salvage their prized doggy treats.
The dung serves as food for both young and adults during periods when they remain underground. Females lay a single egg on what is referred to as a “brood ball” of dung and there may be several of these pre-packaged meals with an egg in the tunnel system made by the beetles. I was able to get some good photos of a beetle as it worked above ground moving dung balls away from the mother lode. It appears to be a species known as Phanaeus igneus, which occurs in our area along with a similar species named Phanaeus vindex. In Florida, Phanaeus igneus tends to occur in sandy soils, while P. vindex prefers clay-type soils. The finely sculptured elytra (hard wing covers) of P. igneus also distinguish it from P. vindex. Eggs hatch into a grub that matures below ground before emerging as a mature adult to continue the cycle.
Females of this species are distinguished from males by the lack of a horn.
The dung beetle’s sense of smell is truly a wonder of nature. I have seen them flying in for a sniff test literally within minutes of deposition. Within the next day or two, the only evidence of your pooch’s crime will be small mounds of soil where the excavations took place. I was so taken with these little jewels of the manure pile that you might understand why I think you should be just as amazed. So, the next time you find a fresh pile in the yard, drop down to your knees for a closer look and be prepared to be amazed. If the manure-removal squad has not appeared on the scene yet, give them a few minutes. It won’t take very long. In the meantime, you can be thinking about how you will explain your behavior to your neighbors when they inquire.
This praying mantis species mimics a wasp to avoid predation. Photo credit: Erik Lovestrand
When it landed on my hand, the first reaction was to brush it off as quickly as possible. However, something seemed to be slightly odd about this particular “wasp” that made me take another look. First, it was not prone to fly away as I moved my hand up for a better look. It even seemed okay with the interaction as I moved it around for a photo opportunity. There was also something odd about the shape of its body that wasn’t exactly wasp-like. As I looked closer, I realized that its head was very mantis-like and when it began grooming its antennae, I could make out the telltale folded arms that give the praying mantis its name. The yellow and black stripes encircling its abdomen, along with its wing shape and positioning veritably shouted “WASP!” I had never heard of a praying mantis that expertly mimicked a wasp so I did a quick internet search and found that this was a wasp mantidfly (neither a wasp nor a mantis). Mantidflies are grouped by scientists into a separate order called Neuroptera, which includes lacewings, antlions, owlflies, and others. Here are a few other mantidflies that mimic other wasp species.
A simple definition of mimicry would be: similarities between different species of animals. It is different from camouflage, which refers to an animal resembling an inanimate object, but both are effective forms of deception that generally benefit an animal in some way. Another common insect that would fool most people is the soldier fly. It definitely looks like something that could sting but closer examination will reveal only one pair of wings (a fly trait) rather than two, as bees and wasps have.
Now, not to take you too far into the weeds on this subject, but we should also mention the different types of mimicry that scientists have identified in nature and note an example of each. Henry Walter Bates studied butterflies in the Amazon and described a type of mimicry where one species mimicked the look of another that had some particularly nasty defense to predation. The mimic was lacking the defense mechanism but benefited by predators avoiding it based on its basic appearance. This type of mimicry is now known as Batesian mimicry and a good example are the butterflies that mimic the monarch. Monarchs are toxic because of the milkweed they eat during their larval stage. After a predator eats a few it learns to avoid anything that looks similar, such as a viceroy or queen butterfly. Fritz Mueller was a German zoologist who described a form of mimicry, now called Muellerian mimicry, where multiple species mimic each other and they all have a similar defense mechanism. This spreads the benefit to all that look similar by reducing predation pressure on all. The third type of mimicry is known as self mimicry, where an animal has one body part that mimics another (i.e. large eye spots to frighten or disorient an attacker), or a body part that may mimic some innocuous thing to fool prey into coming closer. We have a great example of this locally in the alligator snapping turtle. The tip of their tongue has a lure that resembles a worm and is capable of wiggling to enhance its effectiveness in tempting a fish to its doom in the vice-like jaws of the turtle.
Nature never ceases to amaze with the diversity and complexity of adaptations that various animals exhibit to gain an edge on the competition. When it comes to mimicry in the natural world, first impressions are generally wrong. I mean, that’s the point, right?
GUEST AUTHOR: PRUDENCE CASKEY – 4-H Agent in Santa Rosa County
The hot, Florida summer is approaching, and we all need to make sure we focus on hydration in the heat. Dehydration is very common in hot, humid environments. Many people do not drink the recommended amount of water. Many of us have our coffee in the morning and unless we go out to lunch and someone gives us water, we seldom think about water during the day. Another confusing concept is how much water we should drink. Growing up we were told to get eight glasses of water a day. That is 64 ounces. Let’s see if that adage still holds true today.
Animals are well aware of the need for water. Photo: Prudence Caskey
How much water should I drink?
The best way to calculate how many ounces of water to drink is to multiply your weight by .67 or 67%. For example, a person weighing 150 pounds would need 100½ ounces or a little over 12½ cups. On the other hand, a person weighing 200 pounds would need 134 ounces or 16¾ cups.
Is that all the water I need?
No, as you sweat, you lose the water that you have already consumed. If you are sweating for 30 minutes, you need to replenish your hydration with 12 additional ounces of fluid.
What fluid should I drink?
The main thing when it comes to hydration, is to remember, just because it is wet, does not mean you are being hydrated. Different fluids are absorbed by our bodies differently. Some alcoholic beverages remove hydration from our bodies as we drink them. Below is an example of how our bodies absorb some common beverages:
Water absorbed at 100%
Sparkling Water absorbed at 100%
Skim Milk is absorbed at 90%
Buttermilk is absorbed at 90%
Whole Milk is absorbed at 80%
Apple Juice is absorbed at 88%
Decaffeinated Coffee is absorbed at 90%
Coffee is absorbed at 80%
Sports Drinks absorbed at 50%
Energy Drink absorbed at 40%
Wine is absorbed at negative 150%
Beer is absorbed at negative 60%
Sake is absorbed at negative 180%
Liquor is absorbed at negative 300%
This is a huge concept to grasp, if you plan on being out at the beach with your friends this summer. With this example, a well-hydrated 150-pound person consumes the required 100½ ounces of fluid. Then at a gathering, they have three, glasses of wine. The standard five ounces per glass would mean they have removed 22½ ounces from their hydration after drinking only 15 ounces of wine. Be cognoscente of what you add to your coolers this year.
What are the signs of dehydration?
There are many signs our bodies will give us to signal dehydration. Headache, nausea, and muscle pains are common. However, the most common sign of dehydration is thirst. That’s right, if you are thirsty, it is your body’s way of letting you know you need fluids. Just be careful which fluids you chose this summer when you are out and enjoying the Florida sun.
I am going to be honest and say that I know very little about this fish. I did not know they even existed until I attended college. Shortly afterwards, my father-in-law asked “hey, have you ever heard of a tilefish?” – to which I responded yes… He was having lunch at a restaurant in Apalachicola, and it was on the menu. My father-in-law was an avid fisherman and knew most of the edible species, but he had not heard of this one. The rumor was that it was pretty good, though my father-in-law chose not to eat it that day.
Tilefish Photo: NOAA
I have never seen it on a menu, and only a few times in the local seafood markets, but according to Hoese and Moore1 by the late 1970s there was a small commercial fishery for this fish emerging in Louisiana, as was a small recreational fishery. In Florida, since 2000, there have been 15,435 commercial trips for this fish with an average of 321 each year. The value of this fishery over that time is $33,118,554 with an average of $689,969.90 each year. The average price for the fishermen was $2.62 per pound with the highest being $5.14/lb. on the east coast and that in 2022; the Gulf fishermen are getting $4.16/lb. right now.
The highest number of landings per county since 2000 was 340 in Palm Beach County in 2000. Only eight times has there been more than 200 landings in a single year over the last 22 years. Five of those were in Monroe County (Florida Keys) and three were again in Palm Beach County. The vast majority were less than 100 landings in a single year, this is not a large fishery in Florida either.
Are they harvested here in the Florida panhandle?
Yes… Bay, Escambia, Franklin, Okaloosa, Wakulla, and Gulf Counties all reported landings. Bay County seems to be the hot spot for panhandle with landings between 50-100 each year since 2000. Most of the other counties report less than 10 a year and several only reported one. Again, this is not a large fishery, but it was sold at a restaurant in Apalachicola and is said to be good. Hence, I decided to include in this series.
Hoese and Moore report four species of tilefish in the Gulf of Mexico. The sand tilefish (Malacanthus plumeri) is a more tropical species. The tilefish (Lopholatilus cheamaeleonticeps) and the gray tilefish (Caulalatilus microps) seem to be the target ones for fishermen. Both are reported from deep cold water near the edge of the continental shelf. FWC reports them from 250 – 1500 feet of water where the temperatures are between 50 – 60°F. Because of their tolerance to cold water, their geographic range is quite large; extending across the Gulf, up the east coast to Labrador. They live in burrows on hard sandy bottoms and feed on crustaceans. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration2 reports this as a slow growing – long lived fish, up to 50 years of age. In their cold environment, this makes sense.
This is not a well-known fish along the Florida Panhandle but maybe one day you will see it on the menu, remember this article, and take a chance to see if you like it.
1 Hoese, H.D., Moore, R.H. 1977. Fishes of the Gulf of Mexico; Texas, Louisiana and Adjacent Waters. Texas A&M Press. College Station TX. Pp. 327.