Southwest Florida Shells with Emphasis on Sanibel & Captiva
José H. Leal
Striate Glass-hair Chiton
Chitons belong to a class of mollusks named the Polyplacophora (Greek for "bearers of many plates"). The chiton shell is divided into eight (rarely seven) plates, or valves. The valves are interlocked, and are surrounded by a tissue called the girdle. The Striate Glass-hair Chiton, Acanthochitona pygmaea (Pilsbry, 1893), is one of the two species of chitons found locally in shallow-water. It may reach a little more than 13 mm (about 0.5 inch) in size. The triangular central area of the valves shows longitudinal lines, with the lateral areas sprinkled with minute beads. The valves are partially covered by a very broad girdle. The girdle has two rows of tufts of glass-like bristles, each tuft resembling a minute bottle brush. The color is very variable; valves may be green, red, orange, or with many combinations of these colors. Do not confuse with the more common local chiton species, the similar-sized Eastern Beaded Chiton, Chaetopleura apiculata, which has a very narrow girdle minimally covering the shell valves. The chiton illustrated in the main image was found by José H. Leal on Bunche Beach (Fort Myers) on March 22, 2017 crawling on a Sunray Venus shell. The secondary image portrays another specimen with its fecal pellets (arrow), on the inside of a Sunray Venus valve. This latter was collected by Lorin Buckner near the Sanibel Causeway in February 2019.