Gallery of Chitons
It has been over forty-five years since we started collecting and studying these interesting mollusks. After viewing this site, we hope that you will enjoy chitons as much as we do. If you are interested in exchanging information or finding out more about them, please contact Glenn & Laura Burghardt @ email@example.com. Shown on this site are selections of chitons from various parts of the world.
Photos have been taken of specimens from out collection.
Check on a link at left to enter the specific geographic area of your interest
Chitons belong to the Order Polyplacophora which is divided into Suborders - Ischnochitonicae, Lepidopleuricae and Acanthochitonicae. Each of these suborders are then further divided into numerous Families, i.e. Mopalidae, Ischnochitonidae, Lepidopleuridae etc.
Chitons are a flat shaped marine animal with eight plates or valves held together by a girdle encircling them see diagram of parts. Most species are oblong shaped with a few almost round. The texture and color of this girdle varies considerably with each species as does the surface of the valves. Some girdles are smooth or spongy, others are rough or sandy; some are covered with reptile-like scales, others with hairs, spines or tufts. The valves are also quite varied. They can be smooth as polished stone, sandy, pitted or sculptured with ribs, grooves etc. One of a chiton's most appealing characteristics is its color and/or pattern which again varies much between species. A properly prepared chiton can be one of the most interesting specimens in your mollusk collection. See preservation
To collect chitons it is best to wait for a minus tide and pick yourself a rocky area which would support these marine in the matter of habitat. Or, if you are lucking enough to be a diver then just look for the habitat. Then the search begins. Aside from those species which can be generally always found on the high exposed rocks which are only occasionally splashed by the waves and covered only at high tides, most specimens will be hidden under ledges, in rock crevices or under rocks or smooth boulders in loose sand.
As you progress in your collecting techniques you will discover that some species are generally always found with certain other marine animals. Skin diving will bring you into a whole new world of collecting as so many of the speciess that can be found in 40 feet or more are seldom if ever found in the intertidal zone.
The most important part in chiton collecting comes after you find the specimen. This is the proper removal and preservation of the specimen. If one does not wish to properly take care of a chiton then it would be best for all concerned to leave the animal back at the beach in its natural habitat. After removing the animal from the rock with a sharp instrument such as a scalpel or thin knife blade, being careful not to knick its girdle or mantle, it should be immediately placed on a glass microscope slide, wooden tongue depressor or some similar smooth object. This should be done quickly so that the animal does not have a chance to curl. Glass or plastic slides work out best as the chiton can not get a hold on the smooth surface and therefore flattens out nicely.
After placing it on a slide, tie the chiton down with a thin cloth strip, a piece of sewing tape or a strip of nylon stocking. Care should be taken that the girdle is spread out and that the shell is flat and not arched or squashed. Sometimes a rinse in saltwater will make the animal lie flatter. After you are satisfied with the condition of the specimen on the slide, the complete unit (chiton and slide) is placed in a vial of alcohol/glycerin mixture. This solution is made up of 1/3 isopropyl or ethyl alcohol, 1/3 water and 1/3 glycerin. All of the tying down is best done at the collecting site but the placing in the preserving solution can wait until you get home. But if you wait, make sure the animal is still secured correctly before placing into the solution.
The specimens are left in this solution for at least 24 hours, sometimes longer for large specimens. Then you must decide on your intended method of display. The specimen can be dried for placement in plastic boxes or Riker-type mounts or they can be displayed in alcohol in plastic bottles. The latter display shows the chiton in a more natural look.
For dry results the chitons are retied on tongue depressors and allowed to dry for a week keeping them tied down until completely dry. For the wet display, which in our opinion shows the shells to their best in color and form, remove the specimen from the preserving solution and indivually tie it to a glass slide with nylon 'invisible' thread and then place the slide and chiton in a small plastic vial (pill bottle) filled with the alcohol/gylcerin mixture. The slide will tilk at an angle and will be lost from sight leaving only the chiton appearing to float in space. After a month or so, the mixture will have turned a greenish ting from the transfer of alcohol mixture into the body and the release of body fluids. It will need to be changed to clear mixture for better viewing.
You can then go one step further by placing the chiton specimen under a scope and clean the surface and girdle surface. In our opinion, nothing is so attractive as a well cleaned chiton specimen with the girdle hairs showing clearly.
There is a third method of display that can be used for specimens that have curled up. This is disarticulating them by boiling in freshwater and cleaning the individual valves in household bleach. They are then glued back together in THE SAME ORDER as originally found. This makes a nice display but is scientifically lacking since the girdle is gone.
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GLOSSARY OF TERMS