Although the barnacles have been present on North West shorelines since the 1950s, they originate from half way across the world on the coasts of Australia. They are never normally found on sandy beaches such as Crosby but the hard surface of the sculptures has provided them with an ideal habitat for settlement as well as offering scientists an important insight into factors influencing colonisation.
The installation of the cast iron figures - each a replica of the artist's own body, and identical in size, shape and material - offer a perfectly replicated study environment to test for the effects of different levels of exposure to the environment, currents and sea level on marine settlements.
Research leader, Dr Leonie Robinson, commented: "Although the key facts about barnacle colonisation are well known, it is rare that such a unique opportunity arises to assess all facts together in such a well designed ecological experiment.
"Creatures like barnacles and mussels prefer habitats that are exposed to the elements but choose optimal positions that allow them to feed in the water column without getting battered by waves and currents. The Gormley statues not only provide a perfect anchor point but sheltered parts of the figures such as the inner thigh protect them from extreme harsh conditions.
"This particular breed is a cross-fertilising hermaphrodite which means that once it has settled, the barnacle can produce multiple broods of larvae ?increasing its local population size several times in a year."
Funded by the British Ecological Society (BES), the team are also analysing DNA taken from the settlement to find out whe
Source:University of Liverpool