WWII and the introduction of Barnacles

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I came across a group of specimens in a box, with a starry label on the glass reading ‘Little Grebe’. As a Grebe is a type of bird, I was slightly confused by this. I decided to look into whether this was relating to the specimen, and found a piece of paper in the box which read:

These barnacles were introduced into the Salton Sea on floats of seaplanes during 2nd world war, it now has salinity almost equal to Ocean water due to accumulation of normal salts in a desert climate

For anyone with an interest in both history and biology, this is fascinating! I found some more labels which informed me the Salton Sea was in California, U.S.A, and that the collector was Mr Turver Yucaira (unsure if this is the correct spelling).

Instantly I was on Google looking up what this story involved. And what I found is really interesting. There is this saline lake in California which is described as a ‘sea below sea level’, and it is not connected to the sea but contains barnacles- organisms which are exclusively marine.

During WW2, there was a navy base set up near this area, and boats were often transported by truck past this area, despite locals not knowing why. There are accounts of people regularly seeing seaplanes also. It is thought that during the war, this lake and surrounding areas were used as a training ground for the navy, and as boats and planes came and went, they carried residues from the sea which may have contained barnacle larvae. Once the barnacles were introduced, they stayed. They flourished and are now abundant across the beaches and rocks.

This is a photo from ldanderson on Flikr which shows how the coast of this lake is covered in barnacles.

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And here are two photos of our own specimens at the Manchester Museum, collected many years ago.

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How cool is that!

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