What do sea urchins eat? In this article, we will discuss the types of food sea urchins eat in its natural habitat or in captivity!
What Do Sea Urchins Eat?
Sea urchins, sometimes known as just ‘urchins’ are spherical, symmetrical creatures, classed as Echinoidea.
They have hard shells; called tests, surrounded with defensive spines; that stick out around them. Some sea urchin have spines that are toxic to other creatures, and can be painful if trod on by humans.
The name urchin is actually an old English word for ‘hedgehog’, given to it because they are both covered in similar spikes. Sea urchins are quite small, with the largest size being roughly 10 cm in diameter. Sea urchins move slowly across the ocean floor, crawling along on five rows of hundreds of small, transparent, tube shaped feet.
They can be found in all of the world’s oceans and have thrived for over 450 million years. Their closest living relatives are sea cucumbers.
The red sea urchin is the longest living creature on earth, with some living for over 200 years. Sea urchins can often be found in shallow, coastal areas, searching for food.
What do sea urchins eat?
Sea urchins are omnivorous animals, which means what do sea urchins eat can be mainly categorized as plant and animal matter. Sea urchin primarily feed on algae attached to coral and rocks, but they also grind and eat plankton, kelp, and periwinkles.
What do sea urchin eat can also be found decomposing on the ocean floor; such as dead fish, mussels, sponges, and barnacles. Now that we have looked at what do sea urchin eat, what about how they eat? Sea urchins eat using a structure called Aristotle’s lantern, which is located on the underside of their body.
It is made up of five strong arrow-shaped plates known as pyramids, that each has a tooth at the top, and which move towards each other to form a beak like shape.
They scrape clean rocks and coral covered in algae using their teeth, and their long tongue to eat the matter. Sea urchins excrete waste matter through the top of their bodies.
The sea urchin’s main predators are crabs, lobsters, starfish, eels, sea otters, birds, and a number of large fish. Sea urchins are also sought after by humans as a delicacy in some areas of the world.
What does a pencil sea urchin eat?
What do sea urchin eat is similar to what pencil sea urchin consumes. The main difference between their feeding habits, is that pencil urchin are nocturnal and tend to feed more at night.
Is the sea urchin a herbivore?
As sea urchins are known to eat dead and decomposing animal matter, this means they are not herbivores. As they eat algae and sea plants like kelp, they are considered omnivores; creatures that eat both meat and vegetation.
What is the role of a sea urchin in the ecosystem?
Sea urchins are very important to the ecosystem of coral reefs. They play a critical part in maintaining the balance between the number of algae that collects on corals.
Without sea urchin in the ocean, there would be too many algae in some areas, which can affect the health of the entire reef.
Due to human activities and climate change, some species that consume algae have been decreasing across the world. This includes sea urchins. To maintain reefs and other ocean environments, it is more important than ever to ensure that humans take action to stop interfering with and upsetting the delicate balance of the ocean ecosystem.