Sea urchin emits a cloud of venomous jaws to deter predators

Apr 12, 2017

By Sandhya Sekar

Species: The collector sea urchin (Tripneustes gratilla) – also called the cake or Parson’s hat sea urchin

Habitat: Coral reefs, seagrass meadows and algae forests in the tropical seas of the Indo-Pacific

The collector sea urchin looks like a pretty pincushion lying on the ocean floor, going about its business of munching on algae and seaweed.

But when threatened, this sedate pincushion has a most extraordinary defence. It releases a cloud of semiautonomous weapons: hundreds of tiny jaws that are still capable of biting and releasing venom even when separated from the sea urchin’s body.

Sea urchins have a hard, chalky shell covered in long spikes. Nestled among the spikes are tubular stalks topped with biting jaws known as pedicellariae.  One type of these appendages even has venom as well.

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One comment on “Sea urchin emits a cloud of venomous jaws to deter predators”

  • This seems akin to the Honey Bee sting which continues to pump venom into an attacker after it has been torn from the bee.

    However, having multiple biting stings, their ability to float free in a cloud, and being able to regenerate replacement new ones, carries this to a new level.

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