Wildlife of The Solway Firth – The Edible Sea Urchin
The Sea Urchin as an adult has the shape and size of a small orange flattened football so is one of the most distinctive and easily recognised animals, but it is rarely seen intact on the shoreline as its home is in the seaweed kelp forests found off shore. Occasionally on the beach you may find pieces of it’s fragile external shell ( called a test) and if you are really lucky a complete one . The urchin is an invertebrate and related to the starfish, a fact illustrated by its five section radial symmetry.
They possess not only hundreds of flexible sucker equipped tube feet which they use to slowly manoeuvre around the rocks and kelp fronds of their habitat, but also numerous additional sharp spines that serve to deter most would be predators. These feet and spines are soon abraded off after death. They have only one small body opening ringed by small teeth which are used to both to graze algae and small encrusting animals from rock surfaces and nibble away at the Kelp fronds. They make an interesting and different display at the Lake District Coast Aquarium and to keep them happy we have to periodically scour the strandline for freshly cast up Kelp. The eggs( in fact the gonads) of this urchin are coveted as a seafood delicacy worldwide and so they are commercially collected in many countries.