Overview

Brief Summary

WhyReef - Lifestyle

Like snails and sea slugs, the giant triton is a gastropod. Most gastropods have a shell and a muscular foot they use to move around.

The giant triton spends its days crawling around coral reefs. Its shell is not only beautiful, but useful, protecting it from predators that cannot break through its hard surface.

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Comprehensive Description

Summary

"Charonia tritonis, commonly called the Triton's Trumpet, is one of the largest gastropods found in India."
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WhyReef - Fun Facts

The giant triton is one of the biggest snails in the reef, growing up to 2 feet long! Many people think its shell is one of the most gorgeous in the world. Though the giant triton looks harmless, it is a predator! It uses its teeth to inject its prey with a poison found in its spit. The poison stuns, or paralyzes, its prey, which the triton then eats alive at leisure.
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Physical Description

Morphology

"A distinctive shell, with a pointed spire and a large body whorl. Exterior creamy with darker brown dashes and chevrons. Aperture large, orange, and with banded lip."
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Size

Shell size 95 - 490 mm.
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Diagnostic Description

Description

Possibly the best known gastropod shell. A distinctive shell, up to 50 cm, with a pointed spire and a large body whorl. Exterior creamy with darker brown dashes and chevrons. Aperture large, orange, and with banded lip. Feeds on echinoderms, especially the crown-of-thorns starfish. Habitat: among shallow coral and sand. Distribution: Indo-Pacific. (Richmond, 1997).
  • Spry, J.F. (1961). The sea shells of Dar es Salaam: Gastropods. Tanganyika Notes and Records 56
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SubSpecies Varieties Races

"Charonia tritonis variegata Lamarck, 1816 now accepted as Charonia variegata (Lamarck, 1816). Charonia tritonis tritonis Linnaeus, 1758."
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Ecology

Habitat

General Habitat

Marine: among shallow coral and sand.
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Depth range based on 40 specimens in 1 taxon.
Water temperature and chemistry ranges based on 39 samples.

Environmental ranges
  Depth range (m): 1 - 127
  Temperature range (°C): 22.924 - 25.789
  Nitrate (umol/L): 0.049 - 1.422
  Salinity (PPS): 35.128 - 35.621
  Oxygen (ml/l): 4.256 - 4.971
  Phosphate (umol/l): 0.075 - 0.332
  Silicate (umol/l): 0.982 - 2.877

Graphical representation

Depth range (m): 1 - 127

Temperature range (°C): 22.924 - 25.789

Nitrate (umol/L): 0.049 - 1.422

Salinity (PPS): 35.128 - 35.621

Oxygen (ml/l): 4.256 - 4.971

Phosphate (umol/l): 0.075 - 0.332

Silicate (umol/l): 0.982 - 2.877
 
Note: this information has not been validated. Check this *note*. Your feedback is most welcome.

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Trophic Strategy

"Feeds on echinoderms, especially Acanthaster planci, a starfish that feeds on corals."
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Associations

Known prey organisms

Charonia tritonis preys on:
Acanthaster planci

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
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WhyReef - Menu

The giant triton eat sea urchins and sea stars, and will often eat the crown-of-thorns sea star. Too many crown-of-thorn sea stars can destroy an entire reef by eating too much coral. So when the giant triton eats them, it is also protecting coral reefs by keeping down the numbers of crown-of-thorns sea stars. Because it only eats other animals, it is a carnivore.
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Conservation

Conservation Status

Not Evaluated by IUCN Redlist.
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Threats

The major threat to this species is through over-exploitation by humans.
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WhyReef - Threats

Some people will catch the giant triton to sell its shell in souvenir shops. But it should not be taken out of the reef, as its diet happens to be very important to the health of the reef.

Reefs are in danger, and that means so is the home of the giant triton!

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Legislation

Listed in CITES: No. Listed in Wildlife (Protection) Act: Yes. Schedule: 1 Appendix: Part IV(B) Mollusca
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Uses

"Shells widely sold as decorative items. Also used as trumpets in some places. In India, a single shell of this species can sometimes cost as much as Rs. 2000 or more."
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Risks

Risk Statement

"By feeding on Acanthaster planci that feeds on corals, good numbers of this snail species help maintain the health of coral reefs. Excessive trade and therefore depletion of these snails may have harmful effects on coral reefs in the snail's range."
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Wikipedia

Triton's trumpet

Triton's trumpet or the giant triton, Charonia tritonis, is a species of very large[clarification needed] sea snail, a marine gastropod mollusc in the family Ranellidae, the tritons.

Distribution[edit]

This species is found throughout the Indo-Pacific Oceans, Red Sea included.[1]

Two views of a shell of Charonia tritonis

Human use[edit]

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 to feed 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. The triton has been described as tearing the starfish to pieces with its file-like radula.[2]

Much debate has occurred on whether plagues of crown-of-thorns starfish are natural or are caused by overfishing of the few mollusks and fish that can eat this starfish, such as C. tritonis. In 1994, Australia proposed that C. tritonis should be put on the CITES list, thereby attempting to protect the species.[3] 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 and other countries (such as India),[4] it can be legally traded and is found for sale in many shell shops around the world and on the Internet.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Descriptions and articles about the Triton's Trumpet (Charonia tritonis) - Encyclopedia of Life". Eol.org. 2011-02-16. Retrieved 2014-03-19. 
  2. ^ Powell, G (1979). "Stars for kings". Sea Frontiers 25 (5): 282–285. 
  3. ^ Proposal: Inclusion of the giant triton Charonia tritonis on Appendix II, CITES.
  4. ^ India Ministry of Environment and Forests Notification S.O. 665(E). New Delhi, 11 July 2001.]
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