Temporal range: Cretaceous - Present
|Apertural view of a shell of Charonia variegata|
|Charonia tritonis Linnaeus, 1758|
The common name "Triton's trumpet" is derived from the Greek god Triton, who was the son of Poseidon, god of the sea. The god Triton is often portrayed blowing a large seashell horn similar to this species.
Species within the genus Charonia have large fusiform shells, usually whiteish with brown or yellow markings.
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 in clusters, each of which contains many developing larvae. The larvae emerge free-swimming and enter the plankton, where they drift in open water for up to three months.
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 1 m in diameter) covered in venomous spikes an inch long. The crown-of-thorns starfish has few other natural predators and has earned the enmity of humans in recent decades by proliferating and destroying large sections of coral reef, turning them into coral skeletons, empty husks of calcium carbonate.
Tritons can be observed to turn and give chase when the scent of prey is detected. Some starfish (including the crown-of-thorns starfish) appear to be able to detect the approach of the mollusc by means which are not clearly understood, and they will attempt flight before any physical contact has taken place. Tritons, however, are faster than starfish, and only large 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 starfish'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 ingest smaller prey animals whole without troubling to paralyse them, and will spit out any poisonous spines, shells, or other unwanted parts later.
Species and subspecies
Species within the genus Charonia include:
- Charonia guichemerrei Lozouet, 1998 †
- Charonia lampas (Linnaeus, 1758)
- Charonia tritonis (Linnaeus, 1758)
- Charonia variegata (Lamarck, 1816) - Caribbean Triton's trumpet
- Charonia veterior Lozouet, 1999 †
- Taxon inquirenda (a taxon of doubtful identity)
- Charonia maculosum Gmelin
- Synonymized species
- Charonia capax Finlay, 1926: synonym of Charonia lampas (Linnaeus, 1758)
- Charonia digitalis (Reeve, 1844): synonym of Maculotriton serriale (Deshayes, 1834)
- Charonia eucla Hedley, 1914 : synonym of Charonia lampas (Linnaeus, 1758)
- Charonia eucla instructa Iredale, 1929: synonym of Charonia lampas (Linnaeus, 1758)
- Charonia grandimaculatus Reeve: synonym of Lotoria grandimaculata (Reeve, 1844)
- Charonia mirabilis Parenzan, 1970: synonym of Charonia lampas (Linnaeus, 1758)
- Charonia nodifera(Lamarck, 1822): synonym of Charonia lampas (Linnaeus, 1758)
- Charonia poecilostoma Smith, 1915: synonym of Ranella gemmifera (Euthyme, 1889)
- Charonia powelli Cotton, 1957 : synonym of Charonia lampas (Linnaeus, 1758)
- Charonia rubicunda (Perry, 1811): synonym of Charonia lampas (Linnaeus, 1758)
- Charonia sauliae (Reeve, 1844): synonym of Charonia lampas (Linnaeus, 1758)
- Charonia seguenzae''(Aradas & Benoit, 1872) synonym of Charonia variegata (Lamarck, 1816)
- Charonia variegatus Reeve: synonym of Charonia variegata (Lamarck, 1816)
- Synonyms for Charonia
- Buccinatorium Mørch, 1877
- Eutriton Dautzenberg, 1907 (spelling error for Eutritonium Cossmann, 1904)
- Eutritonium Cossmann, 1904
- Nyctilochus Dall, 1912
- Semiranella de Gregorio, 1880
- Septa Dall & Simpson, 1901
- Triton Montfort, 1810 (Invalid: junior homonym of Triton Linnaeus, 1758 [Amphibia])
- Tritonellium Mørch, 1877 (invalid: junior homonym of Tritonellium Valenciennes, 1858)
- Tritonium Röding, 1798
- Charonia Gistel, 1847. Retrieved through: World Register of Marine Species on 4 December 2018.
- Charoniidae Powell, 1933. Retrieved through: World Register of Marine Species on 4 December 2018.
- "Charonia variegata". Gastropods.com. Retrieved 12 January 2019.
- Christopher Mah Snails that eat Starfish : Predation in the tropical Indo-Pacific
- Beu A.G. 1998. Indo-West Pacific Ranellidae, Bursidae and Personidae (Mollusca: Gastropoda). A monograph of the New Caledonian fauna and revisions of related taxa. Mémoires du Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle 178: 1-255
- An article on the crown-of-thorns starfish which contains excellent pictures of one being eaten by a triton.