Cryptochiton stelleri | MARINe

Cryptochiton stelleri (Gumboot Chiton)

Cryptochiton stelleri (Middendorff 1847)

Kingdom Animalia, phylum Mollusca, class Polyplacaphora, order Chitonoda, family Acanthochitonina

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Description

Gumboot chitons are the biggest chiton species in the world, growing up to 36 cm long. C. stelleri have a thick, leathery mantle that varies in color from brick red to reddish brown. Gumboot chitons are the only chitons with a girdle that completely covers its eight plates (Yates, 1989).

Habitat and Geographic Range

Cryptochiton stelleri (Middendorff, 1847) is commonly found in the middle to low zones of rocky intertidal shores and subtidal zones of the western coast of North America. Its range stretches from central California to Alaska and westward to northern Japan. Its habitat is from the mid-intertidal zone down to a depth of 60 m.

Synonyms

Giant Pacific Chiton

Similar species

None. Cryptochiton stelleri is the only member of its genus (Lord, 2010)

Natural History

Little is known about the growth rate, longevity, and age structure of C. stelleri. (Lord, 2010). Limited information exists on predators, commensals and prey (Yates, 2010). There have been reports of sunflower stars (Pycnopodia helianthoides), ochre stars (Pisaster ochraceus), fish (Scorpaenichthys marmoratus), and sea otters feeding on Cryptochiton. However, observations of predation on C. stelleri are rare suggesting that population numbers are not limited by predation (Lord, 2010). Gumboot chitons are generalist herbivores, typically feeding on the blades of algal genera that include Mazzaella, Cryptopleura, Nereocystis, Saccharina and Ulva, among others (Heath, 1905b; Yates, 1989). While it is unlikely that C. stelleri have much impact on overall macroalgae abundance, they might influence intertidal community structure by creating space for limpets or other grazers by removing macroalgae, similar to the leather chiton Katharina tunicata (Dayton, 1971; Dethier and Duggins, 1984).

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