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. If you want to learn more about our rockpool life, Wildlife Trusts around the UK run rockpool safaris and offer Shoresearch training - teaching you to survey your local rocky shore. The data collected is then used to protect our coasts and seas through better management or through the designation of Marine Protected Areas. The Wildlife Trusts are working with sea users, scientists, politicians and local people towards a vision of 'Living Seas', where marine wildlife thrives. Do your bit for our Living Seas by supporting your local Wildlife Trust or checking out our Action Pages.