Chiton-o-rific

Windy ride

By  Nicole Webster

Here’s a continuation of cute baby things I’ve been finding on my Leafy Horn mouths (Ceratostoma foliatum). Today’s offering is a baby chiton. Its too young for me to properly identify, but enjoy anyway. At barely 2mm long, it still moved at a good clip, making photography difficult. I really should get some proto-slo or something.

chiton

Top view strongly bottom lit to see outline of all 8 shell plates and the surrounding girdle.

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Full colour dorsal view to see the colour variation, hairs on the girdle, and the sand grains.

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Ventral view – you can see the mouth (upper left) and the viscera through the foot

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I finally got it to hold still long enough to get a shot in focus, the shell plates are even visible through the body!

Chiton is the common name for Class Polyplacophora, molluscs whose shell is made up of 8 overlapping pieces that appear like a backbone on the limpet-like organism. The mantle that sits around and sometimes over top of the shell is usually hardened and often has hairs or scales, and is called the girdle.

Like limpets, chitons are found almost exclusively on rocky substrate where they graze algae and anything else that gets in their way. They have a similar scraping radula, but have mineral infused teeth to reduce wear in improve scraping ability.

There is even some Chitons that are carnivorous! The veiled chiton (Placiphorella velata)  has an enlarged mantle which they leave raised, waiting for small tasty things to crawl underneath and BAM! the mantle drops on lunch.Take a look at this amazing photo!

The West Coast of Canada is actually one of the most diverse locales for chitons, including the world’s largest species Cryptochiton stelleri. A great resource to learn about Bamfield chitons, and West coast biology in general is A Snail’s Odyssey. Although its a big tricky to navigate, and hasn’t been updated in a couple years, its a wonderful starting place for biology research done in the area.

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