The Interesting Myth of Goose Barnacles

Barnacles are filter-feeding crustaceans that are common in the coastal areas throughout the world. One of the most common kinds of barnacles is the goose barnacle and how it got its name shows just how powerful a myth can be.

Goose barnacles normally cement themselves to rocks, piers, and so forth. However, they are also often found on driftwood.

Now, enter into the picture a creature called the barnacle goose. This goose is mostly black in color and it can at times be found in large numbers. However, for a very long time, Europeans were puzzled by barnacle geese because none were ever seen nesting or raising their goslings. In fact, no goslings had ever been seen in the UK or Europe.

However, these geese seemed to suddenly appear in the same places the barnacles were found. It seems only natural that a myth-plagued people would draw a connection, though there wasn’t any. Thus, it was surmised that barnacle geese grew on trees and dropped into the water, where they matured into each goose. This accounted for the fact that some of the barnacles were found attached to driftwood, which had at one time been tree branches.

Of course, we now know that barnacle geese are migratory birds that breed in Greenland and more recently in the Baltic, which is why they’d never been seen breeding in the UK or Europe and why no goslings had ever been seen. Goose barnacle larvae have also been identified, but though there is no connection between the goose and the barnacle, the barnacle is still called the goose barnacle and the goose is still called the barnacle goose.

  • Did you know that the goose barnacle and barnacle geese got their common names from a myth?

    • Yes
    • No
    • I’ve never heard of either


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Written by Rex Trulove

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