Variegated Sea Urchin

Variegated Sea Urchin Lytechinus variegatus

Type of Animal:

Calm clear waters no deeper than 164.042 ft-seagrass beds, algae beds, sandy substrate, reef sea bottoms, near/on/under rocks, rocky reefs, muddy substrates, seagrass meadows, sand areas, turtle grass flats, gravel bottoms, among mangroves

W Atlantic from N Carolina to N Brazil. Also found in Caribbean & Gulf of Mexico.

Green/purple/dull red/red-purple/white-pink/brown-red globular shell densely covered in spines, most spines short w/ a few longer primary spines

Seagrass, algae, seaweed, phyoplankton

Status in Wild:

Large colonies numbering in the hundreds

Additional Info:

Young: Pluteus
Group: Colony
1.97-3.14 in

2-4 months 

Life Span:
3-5 years

1.3 in

Main predators are fish, crabs, birds, & lobsters.
Also called Green Seas Urchin, Variegated Urchin, Carolina Variegated Urchin, Common Sea Urchin, Decorator Urchin, Variegatus Urchin, Pincushion Urchin, & Globular Sea Urchin.
Food travels into mouth, down esophagus/lantern center, into elongated intestine.
Tube feet used for moving.
Spines used in defense, catching food, & creating water currents.
Like most urchins, they’re very slow-moving animals.
Reproduce by releasing eggs/sperm simultaneously in water column.
Fertilized eggs develop into free-swimming larvae (plutei).
Adult size/maturity reached at a year old.
These urchins are very photosensitive & use pieces of debris to provide protection from strong sunlight/UV light.
Sometimes appear in aquarium trade.
Predators nibble at spines to try to get to more fleshy undersides.
Play important role of keeping algae populations in check though can be potentially destructive w/o predators keeping urchin populations in check.

Fun Fact(s):
Gonads used as food source in some parts of the world.
Toothlike plates surrounding mouth called “Aristotle’s lantern.”
Like many sea urchins, they can regenerate lost appendages.
These urchins have venomous pincer-like organs used in defense as well as to catch phytoplankton. These spines can pierce through a wet-suit & cause painful wounds. These animals should always be handled w/ caution & preferably not at all.
Besides venomous spines, they also use tube feet to catch food.
Eggs of this species have been used to study chemical/protein functions in external fertilization.

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