Walking mutt along one of our favourite beaches in West Cork last evening, we determined to walk as far as a large green mass we could see ahead of us on the sand, and before retracing our steps back to the car. As expected, the large green mass was a tangle of fishing net that had been washed up on the beach during high seas.
Just about to do the retreat, we took a last look at this gear that had more than likely been cut free after becoming tangled, and had then drifted the seas until reaching this strand. Closer inspection revealed what appeared to be molluscs clinging to the net, the like I had never seen before.
Every now and then, these strange creatures would open the yellow lips of the shell as a bunch of tentacles helplessly groped around in the fresh air. Clearly more used to performing this action under water, I couldn't help feeling sorry for these stranded oddities.
The grain of sand on one of the tentacles here, gives an indication of the scale.
Moving a little further back along the beach, we then passed another example of this unusual sight - something we had missed on the way up the beach. This time, rather than just the single examples as seen on the net, several thousand of these creatures could be found clinging to both ends of a large piece of drift wood that was around seven feet long. They varied from large shells attached with what looked like over-sized versions of the sweet shop favourite, jelly snakes, to small and very small shells, still developing and attached to the centre portion of the drift wood.
They hung down from their flotsam host like beaded dreadlocks, some clearly healthier than others but most taking their turn to 'savour the air' in the hope of catching a tasty passing morsel.
They were totally captivating not only for their unusual activity but with their striking grey shell form and the complementing yellow edging.
My first task when returning home would be to look up exactly what these unusual creatures were.
|Goose Barnacle Lepas anatifera|
Lepas anatifera or Goose Barnacle
Normally found in open water environments, they live attached to floating driftwood or any other floating mass, catching passing food with their feathery tentacles. The western reaches of the UK and Ireland is considered to be the areas where goose barnacles are found, but they can put appearances such as this, when stormy weather might bring their floating homes to the shores. Although they do look like bi-valve molluscs, they are actually related to crabs and lobsters.
My thanks to Maya Plass for making me aware that I had attributed the wrong name to my goose barnacles. (Not quite sure how I managed to do that) I stand corrected.