We saw what I think is a chiton (the "ch" is pronounced with a "k" sound) yesterday at Sunnyside Beach in Steilacoom, WA, and it was alive! Though we had seen an empty chiton shell before, we had never seen one that was alive. On the bottom side there was a foot.  Here is an except from Wikipedia's page on chitons:
Chitons have a dorsal shell which is composed of eight separate shell plates or valves. These plates overlap somewhat at the front and back edges, and yet the plates articulate well with one another. Because of this, although the plates provide good protection for impacts from above, they nonetheless permit the chiton to flex upward when needed for locomotion over uneven surfaces, and also the animal can slowly curl up into a ball when it is dislodged from the underlying surface. The shell plates are surrounded by a structure known as a girdle.
Here is the shell of one we saw back on September 22, 2010:

According to Wikipedia, chitons have "a dorsal shell
which is composed of eight separate shell plates or valves."

Below is the live one seen yesterday, on March 22, 2011:

See it's foot?  Wikipedia says, "A chiton creeps
 along slowly on a muscular foot. They have considerable
power of adhesion and can cling to rocks very powerfully,
like a limpet."


  1. You are absolutely right - that is a chiton. They are very intriquing animals - don't look like much at first, but as you get to know them you discover how phenomenal they really are. They like to return to what I call their "parking place" after they've been out cruising and scraping seaweed off the rocks for their meal. On the outer coast, With time, their shells wear a depression into the rock where they park so that they have a cozy little nook to hide out in when at rest.The west coast has bragging rights, as we have the largest chiton species in the world here - the Gumboot Chiton. The largest of these is about the size of half a football!

  2. Oh, wow! That's so big! And that's so neat about them returning to their "parking place" like that. Thank you for sharing all of that information with us. My children will be interested to hear this, too. :-)

  3. p.s. and thank you, too, for confirming that this is a chiton. :D

  4. Wow! I've never seen one of those "live"! It must have been fun. :)

  5. wonderful pics! and i like the "unschooling" family thing :).


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