Black Sea Urchins on the Reef & How to Treat a Sting
Updated: Apr 24
Natures wardrobe is somewhat defensive don't you think? Some boast their bright colors while others, like this black Sea Urchin are a bit prickly round the edges. They are doing their best to tell us they could use some personal space. I'm guessing Lady Gaga is a fan of sea urchins.
You are reading her signals correctly to steer clear of these little guys. The first part of a sea urchin you notice is the color of course but simultaneously her distinct spiky shape. Those spines are sharp, fragile, and filled with a toxic venom that when stepped on can break off into our skin and cause severe pain at the site as well as the rest of our bodies. The dark colored venom-filled spines will cause a darkness at the injection site that is similar to a bruise but is very painful and can last for several days. What to do you ask? If possible, remove the spines with a tweezers and then soak the site with vinegar several times a day to
dissolve the calcium carbonate spines and venom and continue to try to remove them with tweezers when possible. Soaking in hot water also helps. If that's not doing the trick, go to the doctor who has likely dealt with this a lot in their area.
Now, that I have painted a nice rosy picture of sea urchins for you, don't worry, they don't attack, but they do attach themselves to reefs in crevices and shaded areas that can make them hard to see so you just have to be wary of their presence and avoid those places. But, there's a problem with that because reefs are amazing places to explore and these little guys have a lot to do with what makes them so magical. Now that you know the shadier side of sea urchins, let's look at their bright side. As you see in the anatomy diagram, their mouths are on the bottom part where they attach themselves to the reefs. They poop from the top, use their spines and tube feet to move about and spawning is their reproductive method. Where there's one, there's more so watch your step! Sea urchins, like turtles, parrot fish, and other reef animals, are a critical part of maintaining a healthy reef ecosystem. They are perhaps the most important grazer of coral reefs eating the algae that can suffocate a reef system. At an average life span of about 10 years (some living a lot longer than that), and spawning millions of eggs at a time, they are prolific and effective animals in the health of our oceans so look and learn but don't touch!
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