Sarasota Bay is rich with plants and animals. The clear water attracts dolphins, manateers, cormorants, ospreys, all sorts of fish. You can also see smaller examples of sea-life like urchins. Most people, when they think of urchins think of the big black ones with the long spines that can sting you. Well, I used to work at the Mote Aquarium, so I can show my kayakers a safer kind of urchin.
As we were kayaking through Sarasota Bay I found a full sized variegated sea urchin. In order to find them you have to look for a collection of white shells on the bottom of the bay. The urchins will throw a collection of shells on top of their spines to protect themselves. This type of urchin does not sting and it has a nice, pretty purple color to it.
Sea urchins are members of the same animal family as starfish. It’s true! Sometimes I stump my groups with that question but this time one of my kayakers knew the answer right away. And he was a landlubber from Kansas City!
When I picked up the urchin it had a bunch of shells on top of it and it let go. If it had wanted to it could have held on to those shells because, if you look closely, you can see that sea urchins’ spines end in little suction cups, like the arms of starfish. The spines are always moving. When you touch one spine, all the others move towards the point of contact. Sea urchins can move freely around the seabed.
After explaining more about sea urchins and warning my kayakers not to pick up just any old sea urchin they see, I passed the one I found around. The kids had a good time making faces at the urchin for a while. Then I returned him to the water.