Don’t worry, one of these days I will write about something land-based. We are heading off for 2 days of driving to see some ruins. We are going to Dougga, an ancient Roman city!
Here is Oceanus, god of the sea. He’s older than Poseidon. He has crab legs in his hair. And those sea nymphs are pretty awesome. It’s a mosaic from Dougga.
Meanwhile, back in the water, I am wondering: Sea urchins are small balls of prickles. Who could possibly be eating them? Yet, if sea urchins don’t have predators, then why do they try and hide under bits of shell and seaweed? Today I saw 5 little sea urchins all in a row (the interweb suggests the collective noun is a pickle of sea urchins), and they were all holding bits of shell over themselves like 1920’s bathers when the changing tent falls down. Why do they do that?
Sea urchins are in the family Echinodermata, along with sand dollars, sea stars and sea cucumbers. They are so differently shaped it is hard to imagine they are related, but they all have rows of tube feet running along the sides of their bodies. And they have pentamerous radiation in common.Pentamerous radiation! their “arms” (and two rows of tube feet) come out from the central pole at 5 intervals! Imagine all the arms of a starfish fuse together into a disc–that’s a sand dollar. Stretch a sand dollar up into a ball, extend the bumps on the skin into spikes, and it’s an urchin. Squish the ball into a tube, and make the skin leathery and squishy, and it’s a sea cucumber. Cool, eh? I have loved them since I learned about them in first year biology.
I was trying to find a picture of a sea cucumber for you all, but I don’t know what kind it is. I did find a photo that looks like the poo I have been seeing. I’m including it as a link for the delicate among you. It’s from Indonesia, but you get the idea. The person who took this photo, Ria Tan, is working towards environmental protection and nature education. Follow the link below her photo to read about her network.
Also, I found this article by a SERIOUS echinoderm enthusiast. It is about the importance of sea cucumber poop to the ecosystem. Please enjoy it.
So, if we were all on Survivor, here is what I would be able to catch to offer you to eat from our environment:
- all the sea cucumber you could want (if it’s not a poisonous species. But the producers would stop us before we killed ourselves, right?) I am concerned that I won’t like sea cucumber.
- 1 crab (the others are in their hidey holes. I don’t know how to get them out)
- sea urchin (after someone makes me some gloves so I don’t get prickled. Sea urchin prickles are prone to infection, don’t you know) I KNOW I don’t like urchin. It is my number one hated food. The tops.
- uh, maybe some jellyfish in the shape of a lamp? Some jellyfish are edible, and I like jellyfish salad, though I have certainly never made one. I would need a sack for this job.
- Dates! The dates are ready on the trees! There are a few around.
- Olives (if you don’t vote me off for 2 more months. They’re not ready yet. Just because they are turning from green to black doesn’t mean they are ready. In fact, they are horribly bitter and make one salivate overmuch)
- shellfish. There are some whelks and some limpets and stuff (when you google shells of Tunisia you get a pretty even mix of sea shells and gun shells, FYI)
PS, Stanford U says people, starfish, parrotfish and gulls are predators for urchins (and sea otters, but that is only in North America, me thinks). The Monterey Bay Aquarium thinks that the decorations are for UV protection, to keep them from drying out, or to protect against predation.