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Ischnochiton versicolor (Family Ischnochitonidae)

Variegated Ischnochiton


The Variegated Ischnochiton has a south-eastern Australian distribution pattern. It ranges from NSW, around southern shores, including Vic and Tas to SA. (NSW, VIC, TAS, SA)

The Variegated Ischnochiton occurs at mid tide levels and below on open and semi-protected areas, and is usually found sheltering under stones.


The Variegated Chiton is a large, elongate, oval shaped chiton. The end valves (shell segments) and lateral (side) areas are sculptured with strong, flat, crowded, radial ribs. The front valve is smaller than the end valve. The lateral (side) pleural areas are marked with 3-4 wavy ridges that become finer and have a zig-zag pattern in the middle area. The girdle scales are large, rounded, oval-shaped and are striated with 6-8 grooves.

This chiton is highly variable in colour, with green, black, brown, blue, rose and white base colours and often with black and brown markings. Some of these form horseshoe shaped markings inside the posterior (end) valve. It is impossible to describe all colour variations that are aptly described by its name 'variegated', meaning variable.

This chiton is so variable that there is difficulty in distinguishing it from the Elongated Chiton, Ischnochiton elongatus. The only distinctive difference between the two species is that the scales on the girdle of the Variegated Chiton are larger that those on the Elongated Chiton.

Interaction with Humans/Threats:

The Variegated Ischnochiton is a common species and except for a moderately restricted range appears to be under no threat from human activities, except for being exposed by people overturning stones on rocky shores and not replacing them.

Other Comments:

The word Ischnochiton is made up from ischno that comes from two Greek words, ischion, meaning hip-joint, and chiton, the Greek word for their tunic clothing. Together they describe the animal as wearing a jointed tunic, or covering. Versicolor comes from two Latin words, vertere or versum, meaning to change, and color being colour.

Further Reading:

Bennett, I. (1987). W. J. Dakin's classic study: Australian Seashores: a guide to the temperate shores for the beach-lover, the naturalist, the shore-fisherman and the student. p.263, Angus & Robertson.

Davey, K. (1998) A Photographic Guide to Seashore Life of Australia. p.70, New Holland Press, Sydney.

Macpherson, J.H. & Gabriel, C.J. (1962). Marine Molluscs of Victoria. p.14, Melbourne University Press.

Marine Research Group of Victoria (1984). Coastal Invertebtrates of Victoria: An atlas of selected species.p.15, Museum of Victoria.

Shepherd, S.A. & Thomas, I.M. (1989). Marine Invertebrates of Southern Australia. Pt. II. South Australian Govt. Printing.

Short, J.W. & Potter, D.G. (1987). Shells of Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef. Golden Press.

Wells, F.E. & Bryce, C.W. (1988). Seashells of Western Australia. Western Australian Museum.

Wilson, B.R. & Gillett, K. (1979). A Field Guide to Australian Shells: Prosobranch Gastropods. Reed.


Text, map & photograph by Keith Davey.

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