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The Triton Shell, Charonia tritonis, is one of the most valuable and famous sea shells in the world. The triton shell appears on ancient greek pottery, it features in the mythology of the island people around the tropical world, it is made into trumpets used even today for island celebrations or sometimes blown as a warning of approaching danger.
Triton shells are found in rather large but decreasing numbers in shell shops and shell factories where they are wholesaled to thousans of gift shops in tropical countries. The lovely triton is often seen as doorstops, book ends, and on the shelves and cabinets of shell collectors - killed, cleaned, and displayed with affection because of it's beauty.
The starfish is also extremely valuable to the coral reef ecosytems of our planet. It feeds on starfish, and critically, it feeds on the Crown of Thorns Starfish. The Crown of Thorns starfish Acanthaster planci eats living coral. It is a normal part of the coral reef ecosystem but these days, with the multitude of stresses on coral reefs, it sometimes get out of control and devours reefs like a cancer. This is a very small triton, only about the size of my hand, but it is already eating starfish. In this photo it is eating a starfish that isn't dangerous to coral, but it would happily go after a small crown of thorns if there had been one around. Fortunately this coral reef, just off the tiny island of Mbe Kouen on the barrier reef of New Caledonia, is still healthy and thriving.
And just behind the triton you will see a small Giant Clam, Tridacna derasa. A much larger species, Tridacna gigas, used to live in New Caledonia until about 100 years ago when the last of them were eaten. I was especially happy to find this specimen of Tridacna derasa because it was the very first one I had found alive in New Caledonia. I was beginning to think they, too, had become extinct here. Tridacna derasa is in danger of extinction everywhere in it's range. To find out why read the story about the Giant Clam Sanctuaries in Tonga.
Want to come see this living reef, part of the New Caledonia World Heritage Site? Get a copy of the Cruising Guide to New Caledonia or the Rocket Travel Guide to New Caledonia to find out just how to do it.
New Caledonia is the closest South Pacific Island to Australia and New Zealand. It is a French Territory and although the official language is French the culture is a blend of Melanesian, European, Polynesian, Vietnamese, Chinese, Indonesian, and more. There is one large mountainous island called Grande Terre and 6 smaller islands - the three Loyalty Islands, Belep and the Isle of Pines.The islands are remarkably unpopulated and there are vast areas of wilderness. There are hundreds of kilometers of walking treks, camp grounds, more than 42 parks and reserves, and crystal clear rivers with sparkling waterfalls. Almost one third of the population is located in the capital city of Noumea. Nickel mining is the primary industry and is the major contributor to the high standard of living in the country. Grande Terre is surrounded by the second largest barrier reef in the world and the protected lagoon created by this barrier reef is the largest in the world. Listed as a World Heritage Site in 2008, the lagoon is 24,000 square kilometers and supports a diverse and luxuriant fauna of fish and invertebrates.The vibrant, clear and rich colors are one of the first things that visitors notice when they arrive. Noumea has a complete range of hotels, resorts, restaurants, and activities to welcome visitors.