Monday, July 22, 2013

Triton (gastropod)

Triton is the common name given in particular to a number of species of very large predatory sea snailsmarine gastropod mollusks in the genus CharoniaThe name "triton" is also often applied
as part of the common name, to much smaller sea snails of other genera within the same familyRanellidae.
TheCharonia tritonis (Linnaeus, 1758), which lives in the Indo-Pacific faunal zone, can grow to over half a metre(20 inches) in length.
shell of the giant triton 
One slightly smaller but still very large species, Charonia variegata (Lamarck, 1816), lives in the western Atlantic, from North Carolina to Brazil.

Tritons inhabit temperate and tropical waters worldwide.

Life habits
Unlike pulmonate and opistobranch gastropods, tritons are not hermaphrodites; they have separate sexes and undergo sexual reproduction with internal fertilization. The female deposits white capsules larvae. The larvae emerge free-swimming and enter the plankton, where they drift in open water for up to three months.
in clusters, each of which contains many developing 

Feeding behavior
Adult tritons are active predators and feed on other molluscs and starfish. The giant triton has gained fame for its ability to capture and eat crown-of-thorns starfish, a large species (up to one metre in diameter) covered in coral reef.
poisonous spikes an inch long. This starfish has few other natural predators and has earned the enmity of humans in recent decades by proliferating and destroying large sections of 
Tritons can be observed to turn and give chase when the scent of prey is detected. Some sea stars (including the crown-of-thorns starfish) appear to be able to detect the approach of the mollusk by means which are not clearly understood, and they will attempt flight before any physical contact has taken place. Tritons, however, are faster than sea stars and only larger starfish have a reasonable hope of escape, and then only by abandoning whichever limb the snail seizes first.
The triton grips its prey with its muscular foot and uses its toothy radula (a serrated, scraping organ found in gastropods) to saw through the sea star's armoured skin. Once it has penetrated, a paralyzing saliva subdues the prey and the snail feeds at leisure, often beginning with the softest parts such as the gonads and gut.
Tritons will ingest smaller prey animals whole without troubling to paralyse them, and will spit out any poisonous spines, shells or other unwanted parts later.

Human use
Many people find triton shells attractive as a design object, and so they are collected and sold as part of the international shell trade. In recent years this has contributed to the animals' scarcity.
From ancient times, people of many different cultures have removed the tip of the shell, or drilled a hole in the tip, and then used the shell as a trumpet.
The shell is well known as a decorative object, and is sometimes modified for use as a trumpet (such as the Japanese horagai).
C. tritonis is one of the few animals that feeds on the crown-of-thorns starfish, Acanthaster planci. Occasional plagues of this large and destructive starfish have killed extensive areas of coral on the Great Barrier Reef of Australia and the western Pacific reefs. There has been much debate on whether such plagues are natural or are caused by over-fishing of the few mollusks and fish that can eat this starfish. In 1994, Australia proposed that Charonia tritonis should be put on the CITES list, thereby attempting to protect the species.
Because of a lack of trade data concerning this seashell, the Berne Criteria from CITES were not met and the proposal was consequently withdrawn. While this species may be protected in Australia it can be legally traded and is found for sale in almost every shell shop in the world and on the Internet.
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