Goose barnacle

Goose Barnacles

Goose Barnacles ©Martin Raper

Goose barnacle

Scientific name: Lepas anatifera
Goose barnacles often wash up on our shores attached to flotsam after big storms.

Species information


Length of shell: Up to 5cm Length of stalk: 4-50cm

Conservation status


When to see

January to December


Goose barnacles live attached to rocks, ships, ropes or flotsam floating out at sea. They've even been spotted on a chunk of spaceship that washed up in the Isles of Scilly! They are also known as a gooseneck barnacle and have a long fleshy stem that looks like a black neck. The stem or peduncle is topped with a chalky white shell that houses the main body of the barnacle.

Barnacles are a type of crustacean, related to crabs and lobsters. Goose barnacles filter feed on plankton and detritus, capturing it from the water with their specially adapted legs. In many places in the world they are a delicacy - in fact, in days gone by, any ships arriving in Cornwall with goose barnacles on the hull were a real moneyspinner. The goose barnacles would be scraped from the hull and sold for food.

How to identify

Goose barnacles are unmistakeable. They grow in dense aggregations on flotsam, with delicate chalky white shells anchored to the object with a fleshy black stalk (or peduncle). A similar species, the buoy barnacle (lepas fascicularis) floats attached to a spongy 'buoy' that it makes itself rather than attached to an object. The buoy barnacle is paleish purple in colour.


Often washed up on west and south-west coasts of the UK, especially after storms.

Did you know?

It was once thought that barnacle geese hatched from goose barnacles. When 2 barnacle geese turned up in Scotland, people wondered where they had come from. No one had ever seen a barnacle goose nest or egg before. Then, when someone realised that the goose barnacle shell resembled the barnacle goose's head, they decided that the geese must grow attached to ships and then emerge as feathered birds!

How people can help

The Wildlife Trusts are working with fishermen, researchers, politicians and local people towards a vision of 'Living Seas', where marine wildlife thrives.