Global wanderer beached at Stoer Bay
Plastic marine litter is a major environmental problem. However, it does sometimes throw up surprises for the observant naturalist. On 9th January 2020 David and Avril Haines were doing an impromptu litter collection, with Romany Garnett, on the beach at Stoer Bay (NC1421).
David picked up a small plastic bottle (20cm long and 5.6cm in diameter) round the neck of which were clustered some small goose barnacles. He quickly took a few close-up photographs before adding the bottle to other miscellaneous items already lifted from the beach. It had, incidentally, no markings which might have identified its country of origin. The sack of rubbish was then left in the refuse bin at Stoer Cemetery for disposal.
He e-mailed me the pictures that day and, after taking a good look at them, I asked to see the specimens, since they seemed to differ from those we occasionally see washed up on local shores. Fortunately, he was able to retrieve them, a couple of days later, from the refuse bin, where they had matured somewhat! Their recovery did, however, allow David to take more detailed photos.
The individual goose barnacles are only 5-10mm long, and set on short pale stalks. A distinctive feature is that the largest components of their shells, the keeled scuta (Latin for shields) are covered with fine radiating and transverse ridges. The Handbook of Marine Fauna of North-West Europe (Hayward and Ryland 2012) identifies them as examples of the rough goose barnacle Lepas pectinata, described as ‘Cosmopolitan in warmer seas’ and ‘Often stranded on coasts of the British Isles (south and west) and Atlantic coasts of France, Spain and Portugal’.
However, there are only 12 records logged on the NBN, mainly from the south coast of England, with one from Pembrokeshire. There is just one from Scotland, where specimens were found on the west coast of South Uist (NF7129) on 30th September 2016. Trawling the internet yields further records right across the southern oceans, from South Africa to Australia and New Zealand. Rough goose barnacle is, like other goose barnacles, a filter-feeding inhabitant of the plankton at the surface of the ocean, and a truly global wanderer.