The impact of enhanced UV-B radiation on marine ecosystems due to ozone depletion has caused growing global concern. Barnacle larvae have evolved complex photoreceptors and elaborate phototactic behaviors, which enable them to identify suitable habitats for feeding and settlement. For the first time, we demonstrate that environmentally realistic levels of UV-B radiation can induce ocular damage in barnacle larvae, thereby impairing the phototactic behavior of naupliar larvae and reducing settlement success of cypris larvae. Significant disruptions of rhabdomeres (the photosensitive structures in which phototransduction takes place) occurred in the retinular cells of naupliar eyes when naupliar larvae were exposed to a UV-B dose of 7.2 kJ m(-2), and impairment was dependent upon dose rather than irradiance. Our experimental data also showed that phototaxis of nauplii was ca. 4 times more sensitive to UV-B than settlement of cyprids. Since barnacles play an important role in the function and structure of coastal systems worldwide, any impairment of phototactic and settlement behavior of the larvae would pose a significant threat to the sustainability of this ecologically important species. The fact that enhanced UV-B radiation can induce ocular damage and subsequent phototactic impairment in barnacle larvae suggests that UV-B may also cause similar damage to other zooplankton species.