urchin

Animal Spotlight: Sea Urchins

 

These cute little creatures are abundant on some of the beaches in Grand Turk. We all know you should look with your eyes and not your hands and urchins make that even more clear- they have a body made up of barbed and sometimes poisonous spines. Yikes! 

These little sea hedgehogs feed primarily on algae and have to watch out for starfish, otters, eels, and triggerfish lest they become lunch. Sea urchins move along slowly using their five tube feet. Urchins belong to the same family as sand dollars, sea cucumbers and sea stars which all boast five-fold symmetry.

There are separate male and female species but it is incredibly difficult to tell them apart. Males tend to hang out on higher, more open ground and females prefer to hunker down in crevices and on the sea floor.

If an urchin has intact spines it is nearly impervious to most predators but when the spines are damaged they become a slow-moving feast for many fish and crustaceans. They do not have any eyes but or central nervous system but can sense touch light and chemicals with either their eye spots or the entire body. Their mouths are located on the bottom and their anus on the top.

The urchins in Grand Turk have mostly black spines so they are fairly easy to spot through the clear water against the white sand. So watch your step and enjoy watching them with your snorkel mask on.