Edible Urchin

Sea urchins are members of the starfish family.

They are found down to depths of 20m Below Sea Level (BSL), usually in kelp forests and on boulders. They are herbivores, plant eaters, feeding on the kelp plants and seaweeds found in the kelp forests. The central mouth (found in the middle of the underside) is shaped like a horny beak, consisting of five teeth, and is used to scrape away at plants. This amazing beak is called ‘Aristotles lantern’ as it was first described in great detail by the famous Greek philosopher Aristotle. The latin name for the common urchin, Echinus actually means hedgehog and is a very good description of the almost spherical, spiky animal. Urchins are able to move around using tiny specialised tubes running vertically up and down the whole of the body. They are arranged in five paired rows, showing their relationship to the five-armed starfish. These tube-feet enable the urchin to move, slowly but surely, in almost any direction they wish. The suckers on the end of the tube feet mean that urchins can attach very securely to the rocky seabed. This is important when feeding in the kelp forests which are more exposed to waves and storms, like those found mostly in the north and west sides of the island, where a lot of urchins are found at Lundy.

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