Chiton

Chiton (Acanthochitona crinita)

Chiton (Acanthochitona crinita) ©Nigel Phillips

Chiton (Lepidochitona cinerea)

Chiton (Lepidochitona cinerea) ©Dorset Wildlife Trust

Chiton

Scientific name: Lepidochitona cinerea is the most common
Found on rocky shores around the UK, Chitons are a kind of mollusc identifiable by their characteristic coat-of-mail shells.

Species information

Statistics

Length: Up to 4cm

Conservation status

Common

When to see

January to December

About

Chitons live in the intertidal zone, their mottled grey shells offering excellent camouflage against their rocky homes. They are a type of crawling mollusc, a bit like a Limpet, and will move slowly across rocks in search of food. Like Limpets they are grazers and will feed on films of algae using their tough rasping tongue. Called a Radula, this rasping tongue is the world's strongest biological structure - it has to be to constantly scrape sponges off tough rocks without wearing away. Chitons are sometimes called Coat-of-Mail Shells as they have 8 interlocking shell plates across their backs. These are embedded in the tough muscular girdle that surrounds the Chiton's body.

How to identify

A small oval shell found attached to rocks on the shore. There are around a dozen species of Chiton on UK shores, most are greyish or brown with mottled markings that make them rather hard to spot. They all have 8 interlocking plates surrounded by a muscular girdle.

Distribution

Found on rocky shores all around UK coasts.

Did you know?

The Chiton's shell is very flexible - they can even roll into a ball if disturbed!

How people can help

When rockpooling, be careful to leave everything as you found it - replace any rocks you turn over, put back any crabs or fish and ensure not to scrape anything off its rocky home.