Rock-boring urchins are distributed throughout the Caribbean and coastal South Atlantic subtropical region, from Bermuda through southern Florida and the islands of the Caribbean (particularly Barbados) to Desterra, Brazil.
Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native ); neotropical (Native ); atlantic ocean (Native )
In Panama this species has been collected in the Caribbean from:
-Galeta Island, reef flat (USNM E 36320)
-Sail Rock, Colon (USNM E 18697)
-near the mouth of Fox River, Limon Bay (USNM E 4863)
-Devils Beach, Fort Sherman, Limon Bay (USNM E 18815, USNM E 18759)
-Margarita Island, Limon Bay (USNM E 4875
-Largo Remo Island, on reef in front of Droque Island (USNM E 52927; Centroid Latitude: 9.4000; Centroid Longitude: -79.8333)
-North of Maria Soto River (USNM 1011154; Centroid Latitude: 9.5267, Centroid Longitude: -79.6667, depth < 1 m)
-La Doncella, Del Padre Island (USNM 1011125; Centroid Latitude: 9.5800, Centroid Longitude: -79.6700, depth < 1 m)
-1.7 km west southwest of Portobelo on bay side of Cocoli Point (USNM 1017371; associated with rocks and coral)
-Portobelo, first cove southwest of Buenaventura (USNM E 18700; Centroid Latitude: 9.5278, Centroid Longitude: -79.6875, depth 0.2 m)
-Miria Island, San Blas (USNM E 25632, USNM E 18751)
-Pico Feo Island, San Blas (USNM E 18769)
This species has an elliptical shape with 100 to 150 colored spines on the arboral surface. Size at maturity is typically 40 mm in diameter or smaller, although some individuals recorded larger than 150 mm have been recorded. Test color is variable between individuals, ranging between a black, brown, green or dark blue color with lighter colors on the arboral surface. In some cases the apical system of the test is bright red, with black spines. This species is differentiated from other closely related species by having fewer pore-pairs per arc, fewer ambulacral and interambulacral plates, a different apical system, and slender, tridentate pedicellariae. Like all other echinoids, it has 5 teeth located within a specialized feeding apparatus known as Aristotle's lantern. As with many urchins, this species' spines are venomous.
Range length: 40 to 150 mm.
Other Physical Features: ectothermic ; heterothermic ; radial symmetry ; venomous
Sexual Dimorphism: sexes alike
References and links
Mortensen, T. (1943). A monograph of the Echinoidea 3(3). Camarodonta 2. Copenhagen. 446 pp., 215 figures, 66 pls; pages: 357-368.
Cidaris fenestrata Leske, 1778 (subjective junior synonym)
Cidaris lucunter (Linnaeus, 1758) (transferred to Echinometra)
Echinometra acufera Mellis, 1875 (subjective junior synonym)
Echinometra lobatus (Blainville, 1825) (subjective junior synonym)
Echinometra michelini L. Agassiz & Desor, 1846 (subjective junior synonym)
Echinometra nigrina Girard, 1850 (subjective junior synonym)
Echinometra subangularis A. Agassiz, 1872-74 (subjective junior synonym)
Echinus lobatus Blainville, 1825 (subjective junior synonym)
Echinus lucunter Linnaeus, 1758 (transferred to Echinometra)
Echinus maugei Blainville, 1825 (subjective junior synonym)
Ellipsechinus lobatus (Blainville, 1825) (subjective junior synonym)
Ellipsechinus subangularis (A. Agassiz, 1872-74) (subjective junior synonym)
Heliocidaris castelnaudi Hupé, 1858 (subjective junior synonym)
Heliocidaris mexicana L. Agassiz & Desor, 1846 (subjective junior synonym)
Toxocidaris mexicana (L. Agassiz & Desor, 1846) (subjective junior synonym)
This urchin is typically found in shallow waters of 0-2 meters and has been reported at depths up to 45 meters. It is most abundant on tidal terraces and rocky shores in areas of high energy waves and on shallow coral reefs within rock crevices, and may be present (though less commonly found) on sandy bottoms.
Range depth: 0 to 45 m.
Habitat Regions: tropical ; saltwater or marine
Aquatic Biomes: benthic ; reef ; coastal
Other Habitat Features: intertidal or littoral
Water temperature and chemistry ranges based on 1 sample.
Depth range (m): 3 - 3
Temperature range (°C): 25.868 - 25.868
Nitrate (umol/L): 0.115 - 0.115
Salinity (PPS): 35.984 - 35.984
Oxygen (ml/l): 4.672 - 4.672
Phosphate (umol/l): 0.136 - 0.136
Silicate (umol/l): 1.455 - 1.455
Note: this information has not been validated. Check this *note*. Your feedback is most welcome.
This urchin is an omnivorous species, using its arboral spines to trap food and carry it to the oral surface where it uses a specialized feeding apparatus (Aristotle's lantern) to graze and consume its food. Approximately 45% of the diet consists of algae attached to the urchin's burrows and the remainder is algal drift. Some of the macrophytic algae known to be consumed by this species include Dictyota sp., Chaetomorpha sp., Sargassum sp. and Laurencia papilosa, and it is also known to consume seagrasses in the genera Thalassia and Syringodium. Gut contents of some urchins have been observed to include spines from other echinoids (resulting from territorial fights), and sessile invertebrates.
Animal Foods: other marine invertebrates
Plant Foods: algae; macroalgae
Other Foods: detritus
Primary Diet: herbivore (Algivore); omnivore ; detritivore
This species affects the development of coral reefs through shading, physical abrasion, and incidental ingestion of sessile epifauna, thus altering the community's physical and biological structure. Because it is mainly herbivorous, it has a strong impact on algal biomass, affecting the biodiversity and functionality of its ecosystem by increasing the access to substrate for the settlement, attachment and growth of other benthic organisms. In Brazil, reduction of algal cover helped recruitment of sponges (Darwinela sp.). Most of this species' relationships are commensal. Some goby and clingfish species, as well as crustaceans, reside within its spines for protection. It is, however, also host to at least two species of ectoparasitic copepods.
Ecosystem Impact: creates habitat; biodegradation ; keystone species
- Red clingfish (Acyrtus rubiginosus)
- Barber goby (Elacatinus figaro)
- Bluebanded goby (Lythrypnus dalli)
- Chelacheres longipalpus (Subclass Copepoda, Subphylum Crustacea)
- Chelacheres optans (Subclass Copepoda, Subphylum Crustacea)
- Clastotoechus vandehorsti (Family Porcellanidae, Subphylum Crustacea)
Predators include fishes, birds, molluscs, and humans. Triggerfish are able to break urchin tests with their strong jaws and consume the viscera, while gobies consume the urchin's tube feet and pedicellarie. Shorebirds, such as ruddy turnstones, flock over exposed reefs during low tide, pecking through urchin peristomes and eating the viscera. Conch use their radulae to drill through the urchin tests. Humans consume the gonads of this urchin.
This species is able to detect some invertebrate predators' odors and chemical signals, helping it to avoid predation. When attacked, an urchin waves its spines and tube feet as a defense and escape mechanism.
- Black margate Anisotremus surinamensis
- Ruddy turnstone Arenaria interpres morinella
- Queen triggerfish Balistes vetula
- King helmet conch Cassis tuberosa
- Spot-fin porcupinefish Diodon holocanthus
- Nineline goby Ginsburgellus novemlineatus
- Hairy blenny Labrisomus nuchipinnis
- Human Homo sapiens
Life History and Behavior
These urchins communicate with conspecifics through tactile means, using their tube feet and spines and, when spawning, through chemical signals. It is also able to detect shadows and chemicals released by its predators. Although they have no discrete visual organs, urchins have been found to express vision related genes in their tube feet. It has also been found that their spines filter light from wide angles, allowing them to detect relatively fine visual detail (species with densely packed spines have greater acuity than those with widely spaced spines).
Communication Channels: tactile ; chemical
Other Communication Modes: pheromones
Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; chemical
Post-fertilization, zygotes undergo first cleavage after approximately 90 minutes. Planktonic larvae develop in several stages, including the blastula (reached at the 128 cell stage), gastrula (1000 cell stage), and prism stages. The following stage, four-armed pluteus, is reached after the second day of fertilization. Following the fourth day, posterodorsal arms appear and full metamorphosis occurs approximately 19 days after fertilization. This urchin is a slow-growing and relatively long-lived echinoid species with a life expectancy over 10 years.
Development - Life Cycle: metamorphosis
Rock-boring urchins exhibit a slow growth rate. After completing their first year of life, average life expectancy is over 10 years. However, there have been no detailed studies documenting the average lifespan in the wild, and estimated lifespans in captive individuals are unknown.
Status: wild: 10 years.
This species is usually found in dense aggregations. Spawning occurs once or twice (depending on individual conditions) in the summer. Individuals release their gametes into the water column, with males usually spawning before females. This may act as a cue, stimulating females to release eggs.
Mating System: polygynandrous (promiscuous)
Sexual maturity occurs when individuals reach a test diameter of at least 20 mm and when ripe sex cells are present in the gonads. Gonad development occurs most often during spring, with spawning occuring in the summer, usually once but in some cases twice per year. The gonadal index (number of sex cells/unit of gonad tissue) is highest during summer. The gametogenic cycle comprises 5 different stages: proliferative, premature, mature, depleted, and resting. Release of the male’s spermatozoa elicits release of oocytes by females. Spawning may also occur during other times of the year outside of summer, depending primarily on hydrodynamics and nutrient availability. There is currently no published information noting the average number of offspring, gestation period, and birth mass for this species.
Breeding interval: Typically once per year; occasionally twice per year
Breeding season: Spring/summer
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization (External ); broadcast (group) spawning
This species exhibits no parental investment after gamete release. Zygotes become planktonic larvae and drift unattended until they develop into the benthic adult form.
Parental Investment: no parental involvement
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Echinometra lucunter
Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.
See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.
-- end --
Download FASTA File
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Echinometra lucunter
Public Records: 6
Specimens with Barcodes: 9
Species With Barcodes: 1
As of March 2012, there is no active conservation plan for this species. This species is not endangered.
US Federal List: no special status
CITES: no special status
State of Michigan List: no special status
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
This species is venomous, introducing its toxin via its spines. In Brazil it is responsible for approximately half of all accidents caused by marine animals. Effects of the venom range from mild, temporary discomfort to pain and secondary infections lasting for weeks.
Negative Impacts: injures humans (bites or stings, venomous )
Humans consume the gonads of this species. This urchin can also serve as an indicator of marine pollution by the mercury levels found in its gonads. Humans benefit from this species' role in reducing algal overgrowth and in providing protection for small cleaning fishes, which helps to maintain the health of edible reef fish.
Positive Impacts: food ; research and education
Echinometra lucunter has an elliptical rather than a round test (shell). It can grow to a diameter of about 8 centimetres (3.1 in) and grows larger at the extreme north and south ends of its range than it does in the centre. It has moderately short spines with wide bases and sharp tips. The colour of the test varies from black to deep brownish-red, often being more ruddy on its aboral (upper) surface than on its oral (lower) surface. The spines are usually black.
Distribution and habitat
Echinometra lucunter is common throughout the Caribbean Sea and also occurs in Florida, Bermuda and the South American coast as far south as Brazil. It occurs on shallow rocky areas and on coral reefs usually at depths of 2 metres (6 ft 7 in) or less but occasionally in deeper water down to about 45 metres (148 ft). It is sometimes found among seagrasses and often under rock slabs or broken coral especially in places with high water movement. It sometimes occurs in large numbers and causes considerable damage to coral reefs through its boring activities.
Echinometra lucunter uses the teeth that surround its mouth to grind away at the rock underneath it so as to make a hemispherical depression in which it takes refuge during the day. It emerges at night to graze on algae growing within a few centimetres (inches) of its home. It defends this hole against other sea urchins of its own species. The king helmet shell (Cassis tuberosa) feeds on it and several species of small goby conceal themselves underneath its test.
- Kroh, Andreas (2010). "Echinometra lucunter (Linnaeus, 1758)". In A. Kroh & R. Mooi. World Echinoidea Database. World Register of Marine Species. Retrieved 2012-09-18.
- Colin, Patrick L. (1978). Marine Invertebrates and Plants of the Living Reef. T.F.H. Publications. pp. 419–422. ISBN 0-86622-875-6.
- "Rock-boring urchin (Echinometra lucunter)". Interactive Guide to Caribbean Diving. Marine Species Identification Portal. Retrieved 2012-09-18.
EOL content is automatically assembled from many different content providers. As a result, from time to time you may find pages on EOL that are confusing.
To request an improvement, please leave a comment on the page. Thank you!