Triton Snail – Charonia

A genus of very large sea snails.

The Triton snail or Triton trumpet belongs to the family Ranellidae. It is a marine gastropod of considerable size.

Distribution

This species is well know throughout the Indo-Pacific, the Red Sea, along the tropical coast lines of Africa and into southern Japan. In the Mediterranean if is refered to as the Mediterranean God of the Sea.

Shell and Body

Reaching a length of 50 cm, the Triton shell spirals steeply at one end. The opposite end is rounded which holds the chamber to house the snail. The snail has a well developed head with tentacles and eyes. The mouth is on a protactible proboscis (tube), this can be retracted or extended as required. The Trion snail is a Gastropod, having a large muscular foot enabling it to crawl around the reef. Their body is soft in texture, habouring the internal organs which are protected by their shell.

 

Sexes

Here we have seperate sexes, individual male and female Triton snails. The fertilization takes place internally and the female lays the eggs. The eggs are similar to a cluster of white, club-shaped capsules, each capsule contains the developing embryo. When the young hatch, they swim as veliger larvae and enter plankton which enables them to drift into open water.

Habitat and food

The Triton Snail is found at moderate to shallow depths, anywhere in the region of 4 – 22m. If there is a coral rich area they may be found slightly deeper. The snail moves around the reef and is an active predator. In regions where the seastars;  crown-of-thorns and cushion star can be found, the Triton snail plays an important role in reef community. They have the ability to immobilize the seastar with an injection of paralytic salivary juices. After immobilisation, which can take hours the Triton snail bores through the seastar’s mesh-like skeleton and eats the soft tissue inside. The snail has very sturdy radular teeth which are capable of ripping open the outer protective coating of its prey. Food may also be swallowed whole if it is small enough for consumption, otherwise the Triton snail immobilizes its prey and feeds on the soft body parts.

Shell Collectors

In many regions the Triton shell is collected and used as ceremonial trumpets. Because of its large size and beauty the shells are taken for home decoration too. In some countries they are protected by law, including Fiji, the Seychelles and Australia. The Triton snail is becoming rare around the world due to its shell collection.

Photo was take by Oliver Benndorff at Divesmart Gozo