Barnacle Identification

barnacle ID 4 laura


Barnacles, or Cirripedia, are one of the most abundant groups of species present on many rocky shores. However, to the untrained eye, the grey-white carpet of miniature creatures coating the rocks underfoot can seem an identification nightmare. Recently, we were extremely fortunate to have barnacle expert Mike Puleston give us a talk full of the tricks of the trade when it comes to UK barnacle ID.

Our Speaker

Mike Puleston is a member of the special interest group “Shores of South Devon” and first discovered his passion for barnacles while working on the Capturing our Coast Project with the Marine Biological Association.

What is a Barnacle?

Barnacles are arthropods in the sub-phylum crustacea, related to crabs and shrimp. As filter feeders, barnacles use specialised appendages called cirri to gain food from their environment, and as such are most commonly found in areas of high water movement. Their soft bodies are protected by tough, armoured plates and anchored tight to the substrate using a powerful glue-like secretion. Further plates form a “door”, or operculum, which the barnacle can open and close to prevent desiccation (drying out).

Key Points:

Below are the key ID features for 7 of the most common UK barnacles, as described by Mike throughout his talk. Armed with this information, you’ll be able to add many extra species to your next crustacean survey!

Additional ID features- Hawkins and Jones 1992 ; Hayward and Ryland 1995: Illustrations by Laura Coles

To view Mike’s talk in full:

including commonly mistaken species, barnacle anatomy, field ID tips, and much more, check it out on our youtube channel: 


Further Information:

  • To explore more of Mike’s work, head over to the Facebook pages: “Mike’s Marine Magic” and “The Shores of South Devon”
  • To find out more about all things barnacle visit:

With thanks to Mike Puleston for an engaging and informative talk!

Table of Contents

Rock Pool Project discoveries for this species: