Friday, June 10, 2016

Bathed mud crawlers

I keep finding chitons. Under rocks, in tidepools, on soggy mud, under blackish algae, there they are, not moving, almost invisible, looking like oval mud patches surrounded by shreds of algae. When I've seen one in a sludgy pool, there are sure to be more, sometimes in plain sight, although I hadn't seen them.

Years ago, on Stories Beach, Laurie and I found a lined chiton. Easy to see, away from its favourite red algae, and a fast crawler besides. Easy to identify.

Lined chiton, Tonicella lineata, 2010

This year's finds are more challenging. Most of my photos have turned out like blurry blobs of mud. But I caught two chitons on the underside of rocks, lifted them into the sunlight, and poured water over them until the mud washed away. And then it turns out that they are as beautiful in their own way as their showier kin.

Mossy chiton, Mopalia muscosa.

The outside rim, called a girdle, spiky and hairy as it is, is a mud catcher. And the eight plates covering the centre come in variable colours, from grey to brown to green.

Zooming in to see the pattern of the plates. The head end is to the left and the plates overlap each other, going from head to tail.

Brown and yellow, with a couple of decorative accents, red algae.

Zooming in on the head. 

These chitons are night crawlers. In daylight, they sleep. Even disturbed by a rude rock flipper, and given a good bath, these two barely moved. The first one lifted an edge, then flattened itself more tightly to the rock; that was enough exercise for the moment.

These two were on the 50th parallel.


  1. Red Chiton - Ischnochiton ruber

    Red Chitons let loose in a sink
    Are not very cryptic, you'd think,
    But the Lithothamnion
    That they graze and dally on
    Is an almost unthinkable pink.


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