The aim Of this Study was to investigate when adult distribution patterns are established in the barnacles Chthamalus stellatus and C. montagui. Adult 'zones' were identified by analysing field counts of both species at mid and upper shore heights. Monthly collections of cyprids, < 1 month old metamorphs and recruits (all metamorphosed individuals older than approximately 1 month) were made for C. stellatus and C. montagui in natural barnacle beds at six shores in SW Ireland. This was carried out over one year in 1996/1997, using a hierarchical sampling design. Abundance of total recruits (0-3 months old) was compared between adult zones after the main settlement season had ended. In addition, scales of variability in 0-3 month recruitment into adult zones were compared between the species at two scales: shores (1000s of metres) and sites within shores (10s of metres). Older recruits of each species, up to I I months of age, were also compared between adult zones.The majority of settlement (measured as attached cyprid) occurred between August and October 1996. In October, there was no effect of adult zone on the abundance of total (0-3 month) recruitment up to that point in either species. Despite this homogeneity in recruitment between adult zones, significant spatial variation was found in 0-3 month recruits of both species at both of the scales examined. In C. stellatus the amount of variation associated with the larger scale (shore) was more than twice that of sites or of the residual variation (replicates within sites). 0-3 month recruitment in C. montagui was also most variable at the scale of shores but the residual variability (between replicates within site) was of similar magnitude to that of shores. Variability in 0-3 month C. montagui recruitment was relatively low at the scale of sites.There was a small but consistent input of recruits to adult zones over 9 months of the year, complicating the assessment of when adult patterns were set-Lip in these species. By June 1997, characteristic patterns of adult dominance had been established at all shores. Settlement had completely ceased by this time and individual barnacles were potentially I I months old. Neither settlement nor early recruitment are significant in determining adult zonation patterns in these species. Instead, differential mortality patterns in individuals Lip to the age of 11 months are implicated in determining patterns of distribution of both species. (c) 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.