Project Overview

Exploring barnacle exoskeleton formation

Faculty Sponsor

Rebecca Metzler (


Physics and Astronomy


Barnacles are ancient arthropods that, as adults, consist of the organism and a hard outer shell, the exoskeleton, that the organism produces for protection. While several basic studies have been done exploring the exoskeleton of the adult organism, little is known about the formation processes through which the exoskeleton is produced. The goal of this project is to determine at what stage during a barnacle’s life cycle (naupliae, cyprid, or adult) that the barnacle begins producing calcium carbonate (the mineral that the hard shell is made up of). An initial study we conducted last summer showed that the adult exoskeleton mineralization process occurs within the first 24 hours after the cyprid settles onto a substrate and begins morphing into the adult form. Based on this initial study we plan to narrow the time range over which we examine the mineralization process to both pinpoint when the first mineralization event occurs and what type of calcium carbonate mineral is first deposited. Identification of the initial mineralization stages of exoskeleton formation will provide additional insight into biomineral formation in general and will provide insight into the life cycle of the barnacle more specifically.

Student Qualifications

Number of Student Researchers

1 student

Project Length

8 weeks

Applications open on 01/15/2017 and close on 02/07/2017

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If you have questions, please contact Karyn Belanger (