Barnacles, lice and other creatures live their lives attached to the bodies of dolphins, whales and other marine species, and a new study reveals just how rewarding that choice of "real estate" can be.
Some of these freeloaders exclusively attach to certain parts of marine mammals, creating their own microhabitats right on their unsuspecting hosts.
Here, barnacles from the species
hang from the underside of a dolphin fin. The barnacles are filtering organisms, trapping food particles in water as the bits of food flow by, according to Francisco Javier Aznar, senior author of the study, published in the journal PLOS ONE.
"Some years ago, a colleague wrote rather poetically that riding a dolphin would be the dream of a barnacle for two reasons," Aznar, who is a researcher at the University of Valencia's Cavanilles Institute of Biodiversity and Evolutionary Biology,said.
"First, the movement of water the dolphin produces around it during swimming is rather predictable and, therefore, can advantageously be used by barnacles...Second, no predator can chase a fast dolphin to feed on their barnacles!"
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