barnacle, common name of the sedentary crustacean animals constituting the infraclass Cirripedia. Barnacles are exclusively marine and are quite unlike any other crustacean because of the permanently attached, or sessile, mode of existence for which they are highly modified. Typical barnacles attach to the substrate by means of an exceedingly adhesive cement, produced by a cement gland, and secrete a shell, or carapace, of calcareous (limestone) plates, around themselves. Colonies of such barnacles form conspicuous encrustations on wharves, boats, pilings, and rocky shores. They range in length from under 1 in. (2.5 cm) to 30 in. (75 cm). Their shells are commonly yellow, orange, red, pink, or purple, sometimes with striped patterns. Because of their sedentary life and enclosing shells, barnacles were thought to be mollusks until 1830, when their larval stages were discovered. Much of what is known about barnacles is the result of research by Charles Darwin, who published a monumental work on the subject in the 1840s.
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