Nature and perception of barnacle settlement pheromones

Biofouling. 2000;15(1-3):57-71. doi: 10.1080/08927010009386298.


It is now almost 50 years since the gregarious settlement of barnacles and its chemical basis was first described. Although originally noted for Elminius modestus, mechanistic studies of gregariousness have focused on two species, Semibalanus balanoides and Balanus amphitrite. By virtue of its ease of study and its economic importance as a fouling organism, the latter species has assumed increasing importance in recent years. This paper will provide an overview of studies on settlement pheromones and their perception. An adult glycoprotein, arthropodin (now known as settlement-inducing protein complex or SIPC), was once thought to be the sole pheromone involved in the induction of cypris larval settlement. At least two other pheromones are now known to be involved, a waterborne cue originating from the adult and the cypris temporary adhesive. The latter is related, immunologically, to SIPC. In keeping with many other examples of chemical communication, the available evidence suggests that barnacle settlement induction involves receptor-ligand interactions and a signal transduction pathway(s) that translates into attachment and metamorphosis. Similar findings have been reported for some, but not all, marine invertebrate larvae examined thus far and the implications for antifoulant development are discussed.