What are chitons: characteristics, feeding and habitat

Chitons are molluscs that belong to the class of polyplacophores. They are one of the most primitive molluscs and there are more than 850 species, not counting those that have already become extinct. Although they go unnoticed, they are animals with interesting characteristics. In this article we will tell you more about what chitons are, their characteristics, feeding and habitat so that you can have complete information about them.

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Characteristics of chitons

Chiton characteristics: adaptations: As we have mentioned, chitons are molluscs and, as such, they have a flattened shell that protects their interior. Some of the most outstanding characteristics of chitons are the following:

  • Eight vertical plates : they are superimposed one on top of the other, and they are flexible, which allows the chitons to adhere well to irregular surfaces, or even encapsulate themselves in the shape of a sphere as a method of defense. These plates are made up of two layers , an internal one for the joint, and an external one.
  • Chiton characteristics: adaptations: Shell surrounded by flesh : called a belt and is derived from the mantle, which is the soft part. In this belt, grooves are formed in a cavity of inhalant and exhalant channels to trap water and bring oxygen to the gills, which are arranged in pairs of 11 to 80.
  • Light-sensitive cells : they are found in the shell and function as eyes, since they lack them. They bear the name of aestetes and are constantly renewed due to water erosion.
  • An average of between 1 and 10 centimeters in length .
  • Soft Body – Found below the shell, where its head is greatly reduced. In addition, they have the mouth at the front end and the anus at the back.
  • Chiton characteristics: adaptations: Without appendages : but they can move thanks to a very muscular foot arranged in the center of the body, which simultaneously helps them to hold on tightly to the substrate and avoid being dragged. It works like a suction cup.
  • Gonopore and nephridiopore – for reproduction and excretion, respectively.
  • Very elaborate muscular system : very useful to complete your mobilization movements and exert the suction cup effect of your foot.
  • What do chitons eat: Nocturnal animals : their time of activity is at night, which, combined with their colors blending with the substrate, their reduced movement and their strong shell, reduces their possibility of being perceived by predators. These are very few, and among them is the human. In some countries, the consumption of chitons in gastronomy is common, especially in the tropics. They are prepared as molluscs.

Chiton characteristics: This morphology has remained the same for 500 million years, which positions them as extremely ancient molluscs .

Chiton feeding

What do chitons eat: Most chitons feed on algae and bacteria . They find these foods by scraping on rocks and other surfaces, but they can get and digest them thanks to:

  • The radula : a structure analogous to the tongue that is like sandpaper arranged by tiny spikes made of iron and silica. They also consume the small organisms associated with these algae, such as protozoa.
  • Cilia : help move food to combine it with mucus to reach the stomach and be processed.

What do chitons eat: Some larger polyplacophorans may feed on small invertebrates . These have the smallest plates and the much more developed mantle with the ability to lift it. Several invertebrates arrive in search of shelter under this blanket and it is here that the chitons drop their bodies on them and begin to eat them. Normally under this method they catch shrimp or very small fish.

Habitat of chitons

Chiton adaptations: Polyplacophores are uniquely marine organisms . Most can be found in coastal and shallow waters around the globe. There are species in cold waters and others for warmer and tropical climates. Chitons even exist in Antarctica .

Chiton reproduction: Some chitons can survive out of the water for periods of time and others even in areas where there is not much light, of great depth and beyond the intertidal zone. They live attached to different substrates such as rocks, coral reefs , or even human-built structures such as docks or ships. They can be found above or below them.

Chiton reproduction: They have memory of where they have lived and in which areas there has been enough food. If they stray too far from home, they can return to it through the use of their aesthetes, tactile recognition of surfaces, and chemical trails.

Reproduction of chitons

Chiton reproduction: Reproduction of chitons takes place with external fertilization . There are male and female chitons. The females release their eggs in a chain linked by mucus. The males also release their gametes into the water, so that the two meet and the egg is fertilized by the sperm .

Chiton reproduction: Once the ovules are released, a larva emerges , which will gradually develop its muscular foot on one side and its eight-plate shell on the other. In some species there may be internal fertilization to lay the eggs, and others may even be ovoviviparous, retaining the eggs within the female’s mantle until they hatch fully developed.

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