Attack of the Mutant Barnacles?


Attack of the Mutant Barnacles?

Paprika, chili peppers, diaper rash ointment, tetracycline powder . . . now you can add pet sedative to the list of potential antifouling agents that have been or are being investigated.

Several alert Practical Sailor readers passed on news reports regarding new research by Professor Anders Blomberg at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden. Blomberg reports that his team, along with researchers in Finland, has discovered the gene that reacts to a medetomidine, a veterinary medicine that has been shown to prevent barnacle larvae from attaching to boat hulls.

According to the article, medetomidine activates genetic receptors in barnacle larvae and the receptors emit a signal that causes the barnacle larvae to swim away. Blomberg says very low concentrations of the substance are needed to drive the barnacles away.

Experiment results, which are published in the scientific journal Molecular Pharmacology, suggest that such research could produce an effective antifouling coating that deters barnacles without harming the environment. The identification of the gene also raises the possibility of creating genetically modified barnacles that have no appetite for boats coated with certain substances.

Mutant barnacle larvae? Sounds like a surefire blockbuster in 3-D.

Look for our latest report on antifouling paints in the October issue of Practical Sailor.

Darrell Nicholson
Practical Sailor has been independently testing and reporting on sailboats and sailing gear for more than 50 years. Supported entirely by subscribers, Practical Sailor accepts no advertising. Its independent tests are carried out by experienced sailors and marine industry professionals dedicated to providing objective evaluation and reporting about boats, gear, and the skills required to cross oceans. Practical Sailor is edited by Darrell Nicholson, a long-time liveaboard sailor and trans-Pacific cruiser who has been director of Belvoir Media Group's marine division since 2005. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master license, has logged tens of thousands of miles in three oceans, and has skippered everything from pilot boats to day charter cats. His weekly blog Inside Practical Sailor offers an inside look at current research and gear tests at Practical Sailor, while his award-winning column,"Rhumb Lines," tracks boating trends and reflects upon the sailing life. He sails a Sparkman & Stephens-designed Yankee 30 out of St. Petersburg, Florida. You can reach him by email at