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UPDATED Video: Oregon Coast Talking Barnacles - Rare Sound Recording

Published 10/10/2018 at 7:04 PM PDT - Updated 10/11/2018 at 4:44 AM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection Staff

Video: Talking Barnacles on Oregon Coast - Rare Documentation

(Cannon Beach, Oregon) – UPDATED: WHERE TO FIND TALKING BARNACLES - Strangely, there’s almost nothing written about this little marine science curiosity. Did you know barnacles make noises? It's a weird bit of Oregon coast fun, and finally someone caught video of it. (A full list of Oregon coast tidepools is here - where you may encounter these barnacles)

It began with a challenge from Oregon Coast Beach Connection's editor.

“This summer I issued a challenge to the Haystack Rock Awareness Program in Cannon Beach: ‘since you’re around tidepools all the time, see if you can record the sounds that barnacles make,” said editor Andre' Hagestedt.

The group accepted and did just that. This curious clicking or chattering noise is rarely documented, and seems to go unnoticed by many.

Barnacles – in this case, acorn barnacles – do this periodically on the Oregon coast. If several of them do it at the same time, it sounds like they’re talking to each other. It’s a surreal experience to suddenly hear that noise when you’re poking around a tidepool.

In the video, you can even see one of them moving briefly, which is startlingly awesome.

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Acorn barnacles live inside two shells. When they’re disturbed by something, they move around in there, essentially “clamming up” (if you’ll excuse the pun). That causes the clacking noise. It doesn’t take much to jolt them: simply a shadow coming across them or another presence will cause them to shift.

In effect, it’s probably you that has caused them to move around, just by being there or having your shadow move over them.

Keith Chandler, manager of Seaside Aquarium, explained more.

“It happens when they twist around inside their shells,” Chandler said. “When something disturbs them. If something pokes your eye, you're going to move your head around.”

The acorn barnacle's scientific name is Balanus glandula, and they're extremely common to the Oregon coast and indeed the entire U.S. and Canadian shorelines. They are crustaceans, which makes them more closely related to the crab and / or lobsters.

Inside these two shells sits a tiny arthropod, which means it’s an invertebrate animal that has an exoskeleton, a segmented body, and paired jointed appendages. The other really trippy thing about them: according to Chandler, they live inside those shells at an odd angle where the forehead of the creature is actually stuck to the inside of the shell.

The bottom part is a feathery pair of legs, which stick out and are used to grab food.

“They feed on plankton when the tide is high,” Chandler said. “When the tide is low, they close up. They stick their little fan thingy out to grab the plankton. They're really fun to watch.”

Those legs actually bring in the oxygen to the creature as well, acting like gills, in a sense.

In order to hear this trippy little sound, you have to find them in a certain state. Chandler said they have to be partially submerged in water. If they’re in the open air they’re closed up. If they’re underwater, you of course can’t hear them.

The Seaside Aquarium usually has these on display, although you can’t hear the sounds because they’re in a tank. Oregon Coast Lodgings for this event - Where to eat - Map and Virtual Tour

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