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Coastal Sciences, Gulf Coast Research Laboratory


The highly specialized coronulid barnacle Xenobalanus globicipitis attaches exclusively on cetaceans worldwide, but little is known about the factors that drive the microhabitat patterns on its hosts. We investigate this issue based on data on occurrence, abundance, distribution, orientation, and size of X. globicipitis collected from 242 striped dolphins (Stenella coeruleoalba) that were stranded along the Mediterranean coast of Spain. Barnacles exclusively infested the fins, particularly along the trailing edge. Occurrence, abundance, and density of X. globicipitis were significantly higher, and barnacles were significantly larger, on the caudal fin than on the flippers and dorsal fin. Barnacles were found more frequently and in greater numbers on the dorsal rather than ventral side of the caudal fin and on the central third of dorsal and ventral fluke surfaces. Nearly all examined individuals attached with their cirral fan oriented opposite to the fluke edge. We suggest that X. globicipitis may chemically recognize dolphins as a substratum, but fins, particularly the flukes, are passively selected because of creation of vortices that increase contact of cyprids with skin and early survival of these larvae at the corresponding sites. Cyprids could actively select the trailing edge and orient with the cirri facing the main direction of flow. Attachment on the dorsal side of the flukes is likely associated with asymmetrical oscillation of the caudal fin, and the main presence on the central segment of the flukes could be related to suitable water flow conditions generated by fluke performance for both settlement and nutrient filtration.

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