Sir Chiton

Grey Chiton (Lepidochitona cinerea)

I enjoy being nosy in rock pools when I visit the coast, and when I first set eyes on one of these I had no idea what it was, so I had to look it up. It is a mollusc, and this particular species has only been around for about 500 million years, and belong to one of the oldest animal groups on earth. And in all that time it has hardly changed at all.

Chitons are also called ‘Sea Cradles or ‘Coat-of-Mail Shells’ because they look like interlinked chain mail. At first glance they may look like tiny fossils, but they are living creatures. The shell is composed of eight arched plates which fit closely together. They cling to the rock surface by a large muscular foot and the form of the shell helps them especially on uneven surfaces. The body is oval-shaped, and chitons can curl up into balls like woodlice, their hardened shells helping to protect them. The colours are variable with alternating light and dark bands. They can grow up to 28mm in length.

They feed by using a radula, a kind of mollusc tongue which they use to scrape off and eat microscopic algae growing on the surface of the rocks.

The Grey Chiton can be found on the lower shore affixed to rocks in rock pools. This is the most common and widespread chiton to be found in the intertidal zone.

Photograph taken April 2014, Llandudno, Wales.