Pollicipes polymerus

PollicipespolymerusLauraUlrich

Pollicipes polymerus, also known as the Gooseneck Barnacle (so named because of their resemblance to a certain waterfowl’s droppings), is a barnacle commonly found on the North American Pacific Coast. Barnacles such as these have excited and inspired many scientists over the years, including Charles Darwin. That’s right, Darwin himself was so enthralled with these crusty critters that he spent 8 years of his life studying them, and wrote 4 lengthy volumes about their biology.

What is so interesting about barnacles, you ask? Well, for one thing, they are quite like crabs… who were turned upside down, had their abdomens lopped off, and decided to attach themselves to the substrate via their foreheads. Secondly, and perhaps the most prominent reason, are their penises. Yes, barnacles have wooed scientists the world over with their incredible penile length. A male barnacle’s penis can reach and fertilize a female up to nine body-lengths away.  Don’t believe me? Dr. Carin Bondar puts it beautifully in her episode of Wild Sex “Size Matters” (the barnacle bit starts at 2:15)

Our little Gooseneck, however, is a special case. Compared to other barnacles, it’s not well endowed. However, a graduate student from the University of Alberta, Marjan Barazandeh, discovered that it can do what other barnacles cannot- it spermacasts! That is, individual Goosenecks will ejaculate directly into the water and filter out each other’s sperm to fertilize themselves with. Want to know more? I recommend this splendid little article on the subject.

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