MEPS 349:227-234 (2007)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps07099

Feeding in extreme flows: behavior compensates for mechanical constraints in barnacle cirri

Luke P. Miller*

Hopkins Marine Station of Stanford University, 120 Ocean View Blvd., Pacific Grove, California 93950, USA

ABSTRACT: Plastic morphological changes in response to environmental cues can allow organisms to adapt to their local environment. Barnacle feeding legs (cirri) exhibit substantial plasticity in size and shape along wave exposure gradients on rocky shores, but only up to a certain limit in maximum water velocities. Above the limit, the morphology of the cirri becomes invariant. Behavioral observations of barnacles feeding at a wave-exposed shore indicate that the fast response time for feeding motions allows barnacles to avoid potentially damaging flows associated with breaking waves, while still allowing feeding between wave impacts. The ability of barnacles to avoid individual waves indicates that the apparent limit in morphological plasticity may not be a result of physiological limits in cirral form, but rather a result of the barnacles reacting to some measure of the environment besides extreme flow speeds.


KEY WORDS: Phenotypic plasticity · Suspension feeding · Waves · Water velocity · Chthamalus fissus


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Cite this article as: Miller LP (2007) Feeding in extreme flows: behavior compensates for mechanical constraints in barnacle cirri. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 349:227-234. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps07099

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