Thursday, November 29, 2012

Leather Chiton

Chitons like the West best. They're bigger and more abundant here, and there are more species along the Pacific Coast than on the Atlantic Coast--or just about anywhere else in the world.

Chitons (pronounced "KI-tuns") are marine snails with eight plates that make up their shells. Hard flesh called a girdle surrounds the valves and covers them to greater or lesser extent, depending on the species. 

Most chitons sit tight in a "home spot" all day, and wander around at night, scraping their food stuff, like algae, off rocks, and return to their usual spot by daybreak.

by Minette Layne
But the leather (or Katy) chiton eschews the customs of chiton society. This mollusk cruises the rocks any time of the day or night in a shiny, black, leatherlike girdle and scrapes up algae whenever it damn well feels like it.

One of the most conspicuous chitons on the rocky coast, the Katy is about 1 1/2 inches to 3 inches long, but occasionally reaches 5 inches. Its Latin name, Katharina tunicata, honors Lady Katherine Douglas, the naturalist who sent the first specimen of this species to England for study in 1813.

Have you ever seen a Katy/leather chiton?

3 comments:

  1. I don't think I've ever seen one! Never heard of the lady, either. Now I'm curious about her and why she was wandering around the wild and rocky coasts in 1813 and picking up chitons.

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  2. I don't think I've seen a leather chiton, but I've seen conspicuous chitons, Stenoplax conspicua (http://nathistoc.bio.uci.edu/Molluscs/Stenoplax%20conspicua.htm). Although they generally eschew the sun live on the underside of rocks, they are quite large (conspicuous).


    Is it just night when the leather chitons cruise around, or is it also high tide? Or do they hold on tight during high tide?

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  3. I do not think I have ever seen one, but would like to. They remind me of pill bugs

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