Barnacles On Sea Turtles: Are Barnacles Bad For Sea Turtles?

If you’ve ever seen a sea turtle swimming along, you’ll probably have noticed that they are not alone… No matter what species of turtle they are, they will undoubtedly be giving many smaller organisms a lift on the backs of their shells. One of the most common of these creatures is the barnacle, a crustacean related to crabs. With the potential to help and harm, sea turtle barnacles have a fascinating impact on the lives of their hosts. 


Let’s dive into the world of barnacles to understand these unique sea creatures better!

​​Are Barnacles Parasites To Turtles?

Are barnacles bad for sea turtles? Typically, barnacles on sea turtles are not parasites and ride along without harming their hosts. In fact, they may actually provide some benefits. Like other filter-feeding crustaceans, barnacles can act as a form of natural water filtration system. This helps keep the ocean water clean, which can, in turn, benefit sea turtles and other marine life. They also provide a level of protection from harmful organisms and predators.


However, in certain circumstances, barnacles on turtles can become dangerous to the turtle’s health. For example, if the number of barnacles becomes too high, they can block the turtle’s ability to see and weigh them down while swimming. Also, if the barnacles embed themselves into a turtle’s shell, they can create cracks where bacteria and other organisms can get in.

Why Do Barnacles Attach To Sea Turtles?

Barnacles are the ultimate hitchhikers. If you’re wondering why do sea turtles get barnacles, it’s mainly because they provide barnacles with food and protection. While they don’t take nutrients away from turtles, they attach themselves to their shells and feed on small organisms as the turtle swims along. 


Sea turtles are the perfect hosts because they offer a large surface area which is ideal for barnacles to attach. They also move relatively slowly and stay submerged in water while providing access to food. Sea turtles also offer protection – barnacles that have attached to a turtle shell are unlikely to be disturbed by any predators or rough waters, allowing them to survive for longer than they could on their own.

Should You Remove Barnacles From Sea Turtles?

It’s a hotly debated topic – should you remove sea turtle barnacles or not? Some people believe that removing the barnacles can benefit the sea turtle as it takes away the health risks mentioned above and makes it easier for the turtle to swim. Others believe that removing the barnacles can be harmful to the turtle. If a large number of barnacles are removed all at once, it can lead to stress and be painful for the turtle. Barnacles use a glue-like substance to attach themselves and are very difficult to remove. 


Most turtle experts agree that removing sea turtle barnacles should be done very cautiously and carefully, if at all. To protect the health and safety of the turtle, it is generally best to leave the barnacles alone unless there is a clear medical need to remove them. 

Learn More About Sea Turtles With The Journey Bracelet

Want to learn more about sea turtles? With The Journey Bracelet by Fahlo, you can track a real turtle in the wild while wearing a beautiful turtle charm bracelet. Learn your turtle’s name, age, and fun facts about turtles that will help you better understand these endangered sea creatures. Not to mention, a portion of all proceeds from the bracelets is donated to Sea Turtle Conservancy, which works tirelessly to protect turtles and their habitats.


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