Reptile? Slug? WTF?
May 4, 2006 9:27 AM   Subscribe

Reptile? Slug? WTF?

My sister encountered these strange creatures in Bermuda. Are they reptiles? invertebrates? genetically engineered to freak me out?
posted by funkbrain to Pets & Animals (24 answers total)
 
How big are they?
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 9:28 AM on May 4, 2006


Whatever they are, they look like they've been that way for a long, long, time. So, no, they are probably not for freaking you out.
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:32 AM on May 4, 2006


How big are they?

My sister sez: "They varied in size from one to four inches in length. Also, the larger ones seemed less active (in terms of locomotion) than the smaller ones."
posted by funkbrain at 9:32 AM on May 4, 2006


I'd say that's a doodle bug. It's a crustacean.
posted by Marit at 9:36 AM on May 4, 2006


It's a mollosk called a Chiton. More at Wikipedia.
posted by Danelope at 9:37 AM on May 4, 2006


Ooh, Danelope's Chiton seems much more likely.
posted by Marit at 9:39 AM on May 4, 2006


Yup they come under the phylum Mollusca and class Polyplacophora (because they have 8 articulating plates). They are inter tidal herbivores and have a bunch of little teeth called radula that they use to scrape off algae from rocks.

/biologist
posted by special-k at 9:41 AM on May 4, 2006


I like that the one in Danelope's picture has a couple of barnacles growing on its shell.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 9:43 AM on May 4, 2006


I used to see those all the time in Miami Beach. Clinging to rocks near the ocean, not at the nightclubs.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 10:05 AM on May 4, 2006


I think the real question is are they tasty?
posted by mr_roboto at 10:13 AM on May 4, 2006


During a coastal hike I found a nice tidal cave, perhaps thirty feet wide and deep, with a ceiling that gently sloped from about 8' high at the entrance.

So I go looking about inside, checking out the tidal pools within it. I get halfway in, my eyes are now adjusting to the dark, and I see movement on the ceiling.

I look up and the ceiling is literally crawling with chiton. Every. Square. Inch. And I've never seen these beasties before.

I nearly crapped myself. They are so utterly alien, dating back from the beginning of time, hardly changed at all. A very primitive-looking creature. Major heebie-jeebies. And so many of them!

So I pulled up my hood in case any of them decided to drop onto me, gave them a good — but hands-free — looking over, and scuttled on out of the cave.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:28 AM on May 4, 2006


From Wikipedia, on the gumboot chiton: "Its flesh is edible, and has been used as a food source by Native Americans, as well as by Russian settlers in Southeast Alaska. However, it is not generally considered palatable, with a texture described as extremely tough and rubbery. The writers of Between Pacific Tides further detail the culinary drawbacks of the gumboot: "After one experiment the writers decided to reserve the animals for times of famine; one tough, paper-thin steak was all that could be obtained from a large cryptochiton, and it radiated such a penetrating fishy odor that it was discarded before it reached the frying pan.""
posted by imposster at 10:32 AM on May 4, 2006


I think the real question is are they tasty?

From the wikipedia entry about the Gumboot Chiton, the largest at up to 13in (long, I guess):
Its flesh is edible, and has been used as a food source by Native Americans, as well as by Russian settlers in Southeast Alaska. However, it is not generally considered palatable, with a texture described as extremely tough and rubbery. The writers of Between Pacific Tides further detail the culinary drawbacks of the gumboot: "After one experiment the writers decided to reserve the animals for times of famine; one tough, paper-thin steak was all that could be obtained from a large cryptochiton, and it radiated such a penetrating fishy odor that it was discarded before it reached the frying pan."
posted by dammitjim at 10:40 AM on May 4, 2006


If you've ever been to any rocky beach anywhere, you've probably seen limpets.
posted by borkingchikapa at 10:47 AM on May 4, 2006


I think the real question is are they tasty?

Wikipedia is for wusses! I've eaten the damn things, at least specimens of the Katy chiton (Katharina tunicata) and the gumboot chiton (Cryptochiton stelleri) . Raw, they are actually (and surprisingly) crunchy, like a rather fishy carrot -- including the orange flesh. Cooked, that is, steamed, they are slightly slimy, with a mushy scum on the surface a bit like anchovy paste, and then very leathery flesh -- cooking makes them tougher, it seems. I have also baked/smoked them on sticks above the fire and they become very tough but not wholly untasty. I didn't have the experience at all of the writer of "Between Pacific Tides", they were no more or less unpleasant than a lot of other beach food. The trick is, I think, as I was shown by a Nuu-Chah-Nuulth man, is to take the chiton, with a sharp knife take a strip down each side just on the outside of the shells, scrape off the membranes, and eat raw. Throw the rest away.

They are not uncommon in a lot of archaeological sites in the Northwest -- I have found them in sites in Salish, Nuu-chah-Nuulth, Kwakwaka'wakw, Tsimshian, Haida and Tlingit territory. The shells are dense and preserve very well -- eight per critter, shaped like little butterflies. When reasonably fresh, the shells are iridiscent blue and are very pretty. While I have heard them referred to as low-priority food, or low-status food, they were clearly regularly eaten in an area that saw relatively little extreme food shortage.

In Tlingit territory, they have very strong associations with "femaleness" (upside down they look remarkably like a vulva (2)) and feature in oral histories and mythology, usually in a norm-challenging way - for example, a woman who was being unfaithful to her husband put some in her skirt, where they rotted and started to smell bad -- she said to her husband, "I am sick, I must go sleep in a hut in the woods". So she did, and her lover came to her there, in the night.
posted by Rumple at 11:10 AM on May 4, 2006 [3 favorites]


Are we really sure they aren't flying neurons from outer space? FFF, I see why you were scared!
posted by alms at 11:46 AM on May 4, 2006


Rumple, I flagged your comment as fantastic.
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:38 PM on May 4, 2006


As a kid in Florida, we called the 'SeaPets'.

My mom couldn't afford to get me a dog...
posted by ImJustRick at 3:02 PM on May 4, 2006


Kickass answers. Thanks for the help... I think we all learned a lot!
posted by funkbrain at 3:24 PM on May 4, 2006


In Tlingit territory, they have very strong associations with "femaleness" (upside down they look remarkably like a vulva (2))

At least it's not just me. That's the first thing I thought when I saw that wikipedia picture.
posted by ludwig_van at 3:51 PM on May 4, 2006


ludwig van - me too! And there I was, feeling like a perv the whole time.

Oh yeah, and my favorite part of the wikipedia entry:

It has few natural predators, the most common being the lurid rocksnail

Lurid Rocksnail is so the name for my next band.
posted by Afroblanco at 8:38 PM on May 4, 2006


God damn but does the northwest have the most incredibly disgusting sealife. I suppose other watery areas do, too, but I'm most familiar with the northwest.

I love water, but ew ew ew ew ewewewew there's some horrible stuff in and around it.

Yes, I know I should get over it.
posted by blacklite at 10:36 PM on May 7, 2006


I don't know, I like our ocean buddies. Sea anemones, sea urchins, crabs, and the majestic sea cucumber are all really cool in their own way!
posted by Sukiari at 7:18 PM on May 9, 2006


...they were clearly regularly eaten in an area that saw relatively little extreme food shortage."

0.o
posted by ZachsMind at 6:34 AM on May 14, 2006


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