Removing Barnacles

Is there any way to remove small barnacles from a rock without horribly mangling the animal inside the shell? I’m doing by best to very slowly, gently peel off a few live animals so I can put them under a microscope. The very tiniest of them are incredibly delicate and I’m not sure I can help them. But the ones about half a cm across seem to leave behind an unpleasant amount of… themselves… on the rock.

I do plan on putting them all back, although I’m not sure how much it helps a sessile animal once it’s been peeled off its spot.


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Try slowly applying pressure with a knife (or some other tool) to the bottom of the barnacle. I’ve seen them pop off intact this way before but I’m not sure I’d call it peeling. As for reattachment, I wouldn’t think they could recement themselves. You could always glue them back on but that might technically be littering.


well, at least something can eat them if I put them back…

At least I have the comfort of knowing there’s thousands more on the rock. I hope that removing a handful of more mature ones isn’t doing too much ecological damage, although I know I’m only doing it to learn and to collect data. For all I know they’re an invasive species, I know next to nothing about marine life. I’ve got two weeks by the shore though so it’s a great chance to explore.

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Yeah as far as I know the barnacles won’t be able to reattach themselves afterwards, but yeah something while enjoy the snack! Where are these barnacles from? I may be able to help you ID them.


I’ll be uploading my finds this afternoon :) New York.

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A thin bladed knife, applying pressure underneath the barnacle (Not on it) or a chisel, also underneath the barnacle. I just use my fingers if its sandstone.

To confirm what Thomas and Austin said, barnacles cannot recement themselves after being detached. For acorn barnacles like yours, maybe they could survive if you managed to wedge them between some rocks back on the intertidal zone, but I suspect they’d just end up getting washed away.

Certainly for goose barnacles, they really don’t take well to being removed from their substrate. For my honours we tried to grow some in the lab. Because we sourced them from a large mooring, we had to detach them to fit them in the tanks. We suspended them at the surface using fishing line to give the pretence of still floating on an object, and they did visibly feed when we provided food, but they all soon developed some kind of algae/scum all over them and died. I suspect the stress of removal (for goose barnacles at least) is too much for them


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