Barnacles have taken the concept of fast food delivery to a whole new level when it comes to their relationship with humpback whales. Starting their lives as tiny drifting larvae, barnacles eventually settle and usually grow on immobile objects, such as rocks. However, for a lucky few, a humpback whale becomes their home and meals-on-wheels service.
Different barnacles can be found on different species of baleen whales, but for a few fussy eaters, only the humpback whale will suffice. The barnacle Coronula diadema lives exclusively on the skin of humpback whales and dines on the abundance of plankton, or tiny floating organisms, that are constantly floating past.
A single humpback whale can pick up hundreds of hitchhiking barnacles, which can weigh up to one thousand pounds. Much like shopping for real-estate, barnacles choose their home on a whale carefully, finding areas that maximize water flow and therefore food supply. Using their antennae, barnacles move around a whale and usually settle in near the head, tail, or pectoral fins.