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Adult S. balanoides grow up to 15 millimetres (0.6 in) in diameter, and are sessile, living attached to rocks and other solid substrates. They have six greyish wall plates surrounding a diamond-shaped operculum. The base of the shell is membranous in Semibalanus, unlike other barnacles which have calcified bases. When the tide rises to cover the barnacles, the operculum opens, and feathery cirri (modified thoracic appendages) are extended into the water to filter food from the seawater. When the tide falls, the operculum closes again to prevent desiccation; the reduction from the primitive condition of eight wall plates to six is believed to decrease water loss even further by reducing the number of sutures through which water can escape.