Friday, January 28, 2005

Bioerosion

Fuzzy chitons. The most common chitons in Bahamian waters. Creatures of the rocky shoreline. Not quite sure why they call them "fuzzy." They are hard to tell from the rock itself.

No way to get one of these guys off without a hammer and chisel. Under those eight armored plates that make up their shell there's not much but a big sucking foot and gonads. Chitons have reduced life to the basics: hanging on and making sperm. No wonder they have survived so long in the history of life.

The ones I watch seem content to stick in the same place from tide to tide, but apparently they move about at night. They feed by scrapping bacteria and algae off the surface of the rock with their sharp rows of "teeth," in the process turning rock into sand. Mate? Not exactly. Chitons eject sperm and eggs into the water and let nature take its course. Not particularly romantic, but if your most important organ is your foot there's not much point to romance.