‘No, an alien has NOT landed on NI beach’ - UFO link ruled out
Despite its otherworldly appearance - and the fact that it has been previously found on a chunk of spaceship - the unusual life form which has been washed up on the north Antrim coast in recent days is definitely not a visitor from the stars, a scientist has insisted.
Dozens of the creatures, about the size of a grapefruit, appeared on the beach at Whitepark Bay last week. But holiday makers, dog walkers and locals were all baffled by what it was.
The News Letter newsroom was also stumped, with one seasoned but shocked newshound describing it as “creepy”.
A biologist from Queens University Belfast - appropriately enough, named after a mythological creature - Dr Donal Griffin quickly stepped up to the mark, confessing: “I have never actually seen one of these in real life”.
Now working for the Wildlife Trust in England, he says they have also been getting photographs of the same creature to identify from other beachcombers around the UK.
However he quickly cleared up the mystery, clarifying that from photographs, he was able to say this had not been a single life form but rather a collection of organisms.
“They look like washed out goose barnacles to me,” he said. “I’m not sure why they would be washing up in huge numbers at the moment, other than to say that they may have attached themselves to hard surfaces in the oceans and around the coast, and can become dislodged during storms and high wave action.”
The background information he supplied from the Wildlife Trust explained that the crustacean, related to crabs and lobsters, normally lives attached to rocks, ships, ropes or flotsam floating out at sea.
“They’ve even been spotted on a chunk of spaceship that washed up in the Isles of Scilly!” the profile added.
They have a long fleshy stem that looks like a black neck, which ends with a chalky white shell that houses the main body of the barnacle. It filter feeds on plankton.
“In many places in the world they are a delicacy - in fact, in days gone by, any ships arriving in Cornwall with Goose barnacles on the hull were a real moneyspinner.”
Dr Griffin added: “Normally they have a white head with a lovely yellow outline and dark brown or black stalks. But all the pigment has washed out of them. They normally have a shell like structure on the head but this could have fallen off or disintegrated. I am not sure because I have never actually seen one in real life.”
Despite their otherworldly appearance, however, he insists that nobody has ever suggested it might be some type of alien lifeform.
“No never,” he laughs. “They are strange but they are not uncommon really.”
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