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Sea Urchin Hideaways

February 26, 2018

Sea urchins carve out their own homes in the rock with their teeth.

Transcript

Purple sea urchins grow to fit perfectly inside cavities that they create themselves. (Michael Russell/Creative Commons)

Purple sea urchins grow to fit perfectly inside cavities that they create themselves. (Mike Russell/Creative Commons)

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Sea urchin home improvement. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Sea urchins are a common sight in tide pools wordlwide. Many inhabit rounded cavities within the rock that fit them like a glove. Now, researchers report in the journal PLOS ONE that the spiky creatures can efficiently bore these holes themselves with their five super-sharp teeth.

MIKE RUSSELL (Villanova University):

And these five teeth are constantly rasping and chewing. And one of the amazing things about the teeth is that they are self-sharpening and regenerating.

HIRSHON:

Villanova University marine ecologist Mike Russell and his team brought purple sea urchins into the lab and measured their pit-scraping efficiency on four different types of rock over the course of a year. They estimate that while an industrious urchin could potentially carve out a sandstone hideaway in less than five years, granite would take at least several generations of urchins. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Susanne Bard