Barnacle - History of Taxonomy

History of Taxonomy

Barnacles were originally classified by Linnaeus and Cuvier as Mollusca, but in 1830 John Vaughan Thompson published observations showing the metamorphosis of the nauplius and cypris larvae into adult barnacles, and noted how these larvae were similar to those of crustaceans. In 1834 Hermann Burmeister published further information, reinterpreting these findings. The effect was to move barnacles from the phylum of Mollusca to Articulata, showing naturalists that detailed study was needed to reevaluate their taxonomy.

Charles Darwin took up this challenge in 1846, and developed his initial interest into a major study published as a series of monographs in 1851 and 1854. Darwin undertook this study at the suggestion of his friend Joseph Dalton Hooker, in order to thoroughly understand at least one species before making the generalisations needed for his theory of evolution by natural selection. In her 2003 book Darwin and the Barnacle, historian of science and novelist Rebecca Stott challenged the supposition that Darwin was using the barnacle project as a way of delaying writing the book which would become On the Origin of Species.

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