• José H. Leal

Chiton Poop!

A couple of weeks ago I photographed a live Striate Glass-hair Chiton, Acanthochitona pygmaea. (Chitons are usually elliptical mollusks with eight shelly plates.) The chiton was brought to the Museum by Lorin Buckner, who found it near the Sanibel Causeway. After downloading the images from my camera to the computer, I discovered that the 12 mm-long (about 0.5 inch) mollusk had small fecal pellets (arrow in photo) near its posterior end (left end of the image). Fecal pellets are agglutinated leftovers from animal meals that can yield valuable information about the types of food eaten by animals, from dinosaurs (fossilized feces) to small mollusks. Chitons are usually herbivores, grazing on hard substrates with their ribbon of sharp teeth, the radula. The chiton in the photo live insides empty shells in the calm back-bay waters of Southwest Florida, where it grazes, probably feeding the thin layer of microalgae present. Read more about local mollusks and their shells in our Southwest Florida Shell Guide.