Setal morphology and cirral setation of thoracican barnacle cirri: adaptations and implications for thoracican evolution


  • Editor: Philip Rainbow

Benny K. K. Chan, Research Center for Biodiversity, Academia Sinica, 128 section 2, Academia road, Taipei 115, Taiwan.


Thoracic cirripedes are sessile crustaceans that use six pairs of thoracic appendages (the cirri) to catch and handle food. We used scanning electron microscopy to examine the cirri, which include one to three pairs of maxillipeds in six species of thoracican barnacles, in search of correlations between cirral setation and feeding mode. The species studied comprise both pedunculate and sessile forms and represent a wide range of marine habitats as well as morphologies, viz., Ibla cumingi, Octolasmis warwickii, Capitulum mitella, Pollicipes polymerus, Tetraclita japonica japonica and Megabalanus volcano. Of the pedunculates, I. cumingi has the least complex setation pattern consisting of only serrulate types. This is consistent with its very simplified feeding mode and an apparent inability to discriminate between food items. Octolasmis warwickii is slightly more modified, while both P. polymerus and C. mitella have a more diversified setation. The balanomorphan species exhibit by far the most complex cirral setation. This is consistent with the several types of suspension feeding seen in these species, their ability to identify and sort captured food items and even to perform microfiltration in the mantle cavity using the setae on their three pairs of maxillipeds. Our results indicate that in thoracican barnacles, adaptations in feeding behaviour are associated with changes in the setation pattern of the cirri. In addition, the setal types and their distribution on the cirri are potential new characters in future morphology-based analyses of the phylogeny of the Cirripedia Thoracica.