IK Multimedia's iRig Pro I/O

IK Multimedia's iRig Acoustic Stagem
“Almost all people are hypnotics.
The proper authority saw to it that the proper belief should be induced and the people believed properly.”
— Charles Hoy Fort

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Just what, exactly, is this?

A Chiton on Grand Cayman coral © I F Makarevich

A quandary we are in, yes indeed... your assistance is hereby respectfully requested.

You see, after our successful escape from Hell itself, we walked south along Seven Mile Beach aways and decided shortly thereafter to explore the impressive bed of rock that formed the northern part of the "beach," only to discover that they weren't rocks at all, but a vast array of fossilized corals, crinoids and other wonderfully lovely creatures.

Much fun and wonderment ensued, and as Skylaire reached the little tidepools at the outer edge, she excitedly called out to me, for a discovery had been made! She'd found these fantastic living creatures!

Quite a lot of them, actually, looking for all the world like trilobites... nestled flush to the overall surface in little cavities in the outcropping that closely conformed to their shape. Skylaire, a brave lass, indeed, touched one, but it didn't react... it was hard and it was smooth. These creatures were about 4 inches long and contrasted with the coral they were living in rather than being camouflaged. (It was more dramatic a difference than in the photo, if I get inspired I'll adjust the curves in Photoshop.)

We both really want to know what these animals are... can anyone give us some insight? Grand Cayman, near Hell, is the place.

Click the photo for a much less compressed version which your browser will politely render for you in a new tab or window. <- Disabled

photo © I F Makarevich all rights reserved


Anonymous said...

Looks like a pillbug (or sowbug) to me. It that is indeed what it is, it is a terrestrial crustacean, related to the lobster. They roll up into little balls when harrassed.

iggymak said...

Thanks, Felinda. Comments here at HS are rarer than rare things.

I prefer the trilobitic appellation, but it does indeed bear resemblance to a pillbug, albeit a huge one... however this being was clearly some sort of specialized creature... perhaps a tropical marine version?

Each one slightly different, each one nestled in it's own closely conforming hollow so that it's back was flush with the coral's surface. Unknown whether the border of blackish material around them at their "feet" was a part of them or not. It didn't flinch at all when touched.

Considering their location, they would seem to enjoy hanging about submerged in salt water a lot of the time.

Weird, eh?

Felinda said...

If that thing is larger than the kind of pillbug I am all too familiar with, then I know that I do not want to tangle with one. I find the common ones offensive, which is why I tip rocks over with my toe first. I wondered about that "stuff" around them. Nothing I can find mentions pillbugs as being any more than related to marine critters, so it apparently is not a pillbug. Weird yes, and creepy too, which makes it a winner in my book!

If you guys got to poke around stuff like that on the cruise, I missed more than I thought I would!

iggymak said...

The one in the picture is about four inches long. The pillbugs we have in Connecticut are around a 1/2 inch or so at best...

I, being a "nature-boy" from my earliest memory, (living in the woods until 10ish helped that along a lot), find them kinda cute... and they're awfully "chicken," rolling up the way they do... I'm sad you don't like them... then again I am not fond of centipedes...

I am glad you find these weirdies cool, though! They are, indeed... hefty, colorful, no rolling up nonsense here... couldn't have cared less about being touched.

I hope we can go back someday and maybe see if we can get a reaction out of one...

Felinda said...

Well Iggy, that thing has been frequenting my dreams, so I did some more research and it is even worse than my nightmares.

The thing is a Bathynomus giganteus, basically a giant ocean pillbug. It lives in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean, and can get to be around a foot long. The ones you saw were probably between larval and adult sizes. I read one account that talked about some sort of molt around the developing legs, so that could be the stuff your critters were nestled in. There is actually a picture of an adult in the Unexplained Mysteries Gallery, although it seems pretty-well explained to me.


Now could you please post a cute picture of a fuzzy bunny so I can sleep at night?


iggymak said...

Felinda... fear not, lass... it eats algae, not people! I found out this morning in inspired research with an dear friend who had seen them before, (and is showing Fortean interest of late!), what these creature's true identity really is... (I am familiar with the frightful fellow you found, btw...) what these things are; and I was only slightly disappointed, as I was actually hoping for something akin to your find; are a class of mollusc and are known as a chiton. The ID is a certainty...

From Wikipedia


Fossil range: Cambrian - Recent
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Subkingdom: Metazoa
Phylum: Mollusca
Class: Polyplacophora
J.E. Gray, 1821

Chitons are mollusks that live near the edge of the ocean in most of the world, but some species have been found in deep water. They creep along slowly on their muscular feet and cling to rocks. Chitons have shells made up of eight overlapping calcareous plates. (Count 'em! - Ig)

Chitons are also called sea cradles, loricates, coat-of-mail shells, polyplacophorans, Chitonidae and rarely polyplacophores. There are 860 species of molluscs of the Class Amphineura or Polyplacophora. Most extant species are found in the intertidal zone (the "littoral" zone), on or in rocks, but some species have been found as deep as 6000 meters (about 20,000 feet). Individual plates are sometimes called "butterfly shells."

Click for a nice pic of different species than ours (top view).

Click for a pic of the mysterious underside of one (bottom view of foot).

Another good website from the Australian Marine Discovery Centres.

And another at... ThinkQuest.

so... mystery solved... it's an exotic sort of snail! ...they remain, still, very cool indeed...

Thanks again Felinda! You got me going... I'll work on that fluffy bunny for ya!


shawniguy said...

I'm just leaving the Caymans after a 2 week vacation and am so glad to have found this string. I've been wondering what those 'trilobite things' were ever since I arrived. One more thing about them: each one seems to be in its very own perfectly sized cavity in the rocks as if they are actually eating out the rock. I understand that the rock here (the 'ironshore' is actually ancient coral reefs that have become limestone and then, through a somewhat complicated chemical and algae process have become what we now see. I guess it makes sense if the rock contains high levels of algae and is limestone soft, that the chitons could eat it and thereby create their own cavities.

thanks for the info