Amphibalanus amphitrite

Amphibalanus amphitrite is a species of acorn barnacle in the Balanidae family. Its common names include the striped barnacle, the purple acorn barnacle and Amphitrite's rock barnacle. It is found in warm and temperate waters worldwide.

Amphibalanus amphitrite
Balanus amphitrite 7631.JPG
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Subphylum: Crustacea
Class: Thecostraca
Subclass: Cirripedia
Order: Balanomorpha
Family: Balanidae
Genus: Amphibalanus
A. amphitrite
Binomial name
Amphibalanus amphitrite
Darwin, 1854 [1]
A. amphitrite and Balanus eburneus (ivory acorn barnacles), Cayo Costa State Park, Florida


A. amphitrite is a medium-sized, cone-shaped sessile barnacle with distinctive narrow vertical purple or brown stripes. The surface of the test has vertical ribbing. It has a diamond-shaped operculum protected by a movable lid formed from two triangular plates. It grows to about twenty millimetres in diameter.[2]


It is uncertain where A. amphitrite originated but it may have been in the Indian Ocean or southwestern Pacific Ocean as fossils of the species have been found in these regions.[2] It has now spread to most of the warm and temperate seas of the world.


A. amphitrite is a common coastal and estuarine organism found on hard natural surfaces such as bedrock, boulders, mollusc shells and red mangrove roots. It is also found on artificial surfaces such as the hulls of ships, pilings and seawalls. It can be very abundant, with over three hundred individual barnacles being recorded on a single oyster (Crassostrea virginica).[3]


A. amphitrite is a model organism for studies of fundamental and applied larval settlement. This is due to its invasive behaviour, its worldwide distribution and the ease with which it can be bred in the laboratory. Its genome has been sequenced.[4]

A. amphitrite is a hermaphrodite and individuals have both male and female reproductive organs. Sperm is introduced into the mantle cavities of adjacent barnacles through an elongated penis and the fertilised eggs are brooded within the mantle cavity for several months. Free-swimming larvae called nauplii are then released into the water column where they become part of the zooplankton. In temperate areas, spawning is mainly in the spring and summer but in warmer waters it may continue throughout the year.[5] Individuals can release up to ten thousand eggs per brood and there may be many broods per year.[6] After several moults the last larval stage, the cyprid larva, settles and crawls around looking for a suitable place to cement itself. It does this with a matrix of proteins secreted by the antennae.[6]

For feeding, A. amphitrite has specialized paired appendages called cirri. These are used to sieve food particles from the water and transfer them to the mouth. They are oriented perpendicular to the general flow direction of the water and the rates of movement vary with the availability of food so as to maximize particle intake.[7]

A. amphitrite can tolerate low salinity levels in estuaries but appears to need higher levels in order to breed.[8] It can also tolerate temperatures as low as 12 °C but needs temperatures of at least 15 °C to breed which limits its northerly spread.[9]


A. amphitrite is part of the biofouling community. The larvae settle out on and colonise the hulls of ships, harbour structures, buoys and the inflow pipes of desalination plants. These become covered with barnacles and other associated hard fouling species. Metal structures become corroded and maintenance costs are increased. The fouling also causes friction between the water and the hulls of ships and this reduces efficiency and increases fuel costs.[6]


  1. ^ "Balanus amphitrite Darwin, 1854". Encyclopedia of Life. Retrieved June 14, 2011.
  2. ^ a b Andrew N. Cohen (June 7, 2005). "Balanus amphitrite Darwin, 1854, striped barnacle". Guide to the Exotic Species of San Francisco Bay. Oakland, CA: San Francisco Estuary Institute. Archived from the original on 23 July 2011. Retrieved June 14, 2011.
  3. ^ M. L. Boudreaux; L. J. Walters (October 16–21, 2005). Competition between oysters and barnacles: the impact of native and invasive barnacle density on native oyster settlement, growth, and survivorship. 18th Biennial Conference of the Estuarine Research Federation (ERF). Norfolk VA.
  4. ^ Tristano Bacchetti De Gregoris; Marco Borra; Elio Biffali; Thomas Bekel; J. Grant Burgess; Richard R. Kirby; Anthony S. Clare (2009). "Construction of an adult barnacle (Amphibalanus amphitrite) cDNA library and selection of reference genes for quantitative RT-PCR studies". BMC Molecular Biology. 10: 62. doi:10.1186/1471-2199-10-62. PMC 2713238. PMID 19552808.
  5. ^ K. N. Pillai (1958). "Development of Amphibalanus amphitrite, with a note on the early larvae of Chelonibia testudinaria". Bulletin of the Central Research Institute of Kerala. series C. 6: 117–130.
  6. ^ a b c J. Masterson (October 5, 2007). "Amphibalanus amphitrite, striped barnacle". Smithsonian Marine Station at Fort Pierce. Retrieved June 14, 2011.[permanent dead link]
  7. ^ Michael LaBarbera (1984). "Feeding currents and particle capture mechanisms in suspension feeding animals". American Zoologist. 24 (1): 71–84. doi:10.1093/icb/24.1.71. JSTOR 3882753.
  8. ^ K. F. Vaas (1978). "Immigrants among the animals of the Delta-area of the SW Netherlands". Aquatic Ecology. 9 (3): 114–119. doi:10.1007/BF02263329. S2CID 36452246.
  9. ^ Marcus W. H. Bishop (1950). "Distribution of Amphibalanus amphitrite Darwin var. denticulata Broch". Nature. 165 (4193): 409–410. doi:10.1038/165409a0. S2CID 4213007.