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Barnacle bonding: Morphology of attachment of Xenobalanus globicipitis to its host Tursiops truncatus



Xenobalanus globicipitis, a unique type of small pseudo-stalked barnacle occurs on the appendages of cetaceans, including the common bottlenose dolphin Tursiops truncatus. In this study, we examined attachment structures of X. globicipitis and modifications to the skin of T. truncatus in areas of attachment compared to skin nearby an attachment site. Barnacles and their six calcareous footplates were measured for their length and width. There was a positive correlation of barnacle width and length to footplate width and length. The thickness of the stratum corneum increased significantly in areas of attachment compared to skin nearby a footplate. The mitotic stratum germinativum at the base of the dermal papillae did not change significantly in areas of attachment compared to skin nearby a footplate. The stratum germinativum lining the lateral walls of the dermal papillae was significantly thicker in areas of skin nearby a footplate compared to in areas of attachment. Skin of T. truncatus nearby a footplate, displayed dermal papillae extending from the dermis and pointing roughly perpendicular to the epidermal stratum corneum. At sites of X. globicipitis attachment, the dermal papillae were forced to extend laterally, parallel to the stratum corneum, and the dermal papillae length to width ratio at an attachment site was significantly higher than on skin near an attachment site. Our results show that attachment of X. globicipitis through production of footplates organized into calcareous rings, leads to a thickened stratum corneum of the epidermis, a thinner lateral mitotic stratum germinativum and displaced structures of the upper dermis. These resulting modifications to the epidermis and dermis of the host may add to securing barnacle attachment to its host. J. Morphol., 2012. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.