Creature Feature: Rough Spined Urchin

Rough spined urchin-john cooney

Photography by John Cooney

Watch out for those spines!  Today’s creature is the Rough Spined Urchin!

Rough Spined urchin (Chondrocidaris gigantean) are part of the phylum enchinodermata. (That is just the name of the special category that scientists have put that animal into.  If you want to learn more about taxonomy and classification, this guy gives a pretty fun explanation of it all.

Echinoderms are animals that have radial symmetry (imagine cutting into a pie and having roughly the same sized pieces – that’s radial symmetry), water vascular system (not blood, but water pumping!), calcareous skeleton and are often covered with spines. This phylum consists of sea urchins, sea stars, sand dollars and sea cucumbers (not for use in salad).

Urchins scrape along the coral, feeding on algae coating the reefs. If threatened, urchins will burrow into rock, coral, and crevices to hide from their predators. Rough Spined Urchins have large blunt spines that are normally covered with algae, bryzoa, sponge, coralline algae, and snails helping to aid in camouflage.  Their test (that’s the name that scientists gave their calcareous skeleton) can reach up to 4 inches in diameter.  With spines the urchin can reach to 8-10 inches total.

This rough-looking urchin can be found from Hawaii to New Caledonia. The larger species can be found at depths of 30 feet and deeper. That’s a good thing, because you sure wouldn’t want to step on one!


Edited by KC O’Shea
Photography by John Cooney


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