A to Z Challenge: E is for Echinoderm

Participating in Blogging from A-Z challenge (April 2016) with a sea-shore theme…

Members of Phylum Echinodermata are more usually known by the common name of Echinoderm. Sea urchins, starfish, sand dollars and sea-cucumbers are well known members of this genus. These are the more common ones seen in inter-tidal regions or as exo-skeletons washed up on beaches. 

Sand dollars proliferate in some areas of Arabia and finding their bleached skeletons lying on the beach, it’s hard to resist bringing them home with me.Too soon the tides smash them to a pulp, but they shouldn’t be taken when they still have a purplish furry covering as they could still be alive.

The sand dollars habitat is just below the water line in sandy or muddy areas. Sometimes, if you are lucky, you can just see them disappearing under the sand.They feed by use of their furry spines to transport plankton to their central mouth.

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Sea urchins can for the unsuspecting wader, cause immense pain and the spines are hard to dislodge. Many years ago, I stood on one in murky waters, luckily for me a kind local appeared with lime juice and candle wax and proceeded to remove the spines. Quite how I don’t know, but some folks can end up in hospital for removal of the spines.

Black in appearance, with long or short spines, an unattractive lurker clinging to rocks around the shore, surprisingly they are highly mobile and move swiftly around rocks in the hunt for food. Watching a sea-urchin move, every spine seems to have a life of its own, and they are rarely still, twitching for prey. Sea urchins are omnivorous and eat both algae and decomposing animal matter such as fish, mussels, sponges and barnacles..

 Once dead, the sea urchin’s outer skeleton, known as a “test” is exposed in its beauty. Extremely fragile, the various patterns and colours make this skeleton a beautiful object.

Sea biscuits, another variation of the sand dollar are a prize on the wrack line of any beach. Think of a flat sand dollar blown up like a balloon. Fragile beyond belief, to find one intact is such a joy.

The sea cucumber is, well, no dressing this up, extremely ugly. Lying on the bottom in inter-tidal pools, the long, black lumpy shape at first looks like a misshapen sausage. It moves slowly along the sandy bottom hunting for food. Get in close and watch carefully, it has several tubes extended which it uses for feeding and movement and it’s utterly fascinating to see these moving around in its hunt for food. Sea cucumbers are scavengers and feed on algae and waste matter.

In turn, sea cucumbers are highly prized in Asian and Far East cuisine and regarded as a delicacy. Usually exported dried, in Japan it is enjoyed raw as sashimi. I’m not sure I’m going to be eating one by choice….

Starfish are also echinoderms. Starfish are to be found everywhere on the Arabian coastline. But more on Starfish when we come to “S”.  Just a picture for now…

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11 comments on “A to Z Challenge: E is for Echinoderm

  1. Delightful post, Vicky. Reminded me of my High School Days…doing Biology – had to know all the Animal Classifications by heart….Loved this one…still remember – ‘Echinodermata’…. 😉 Hugs!

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  2. Lovely photos and post. I’ve always had a weakness for the echinoderms – they seem both tough and fragile at the same time, and are just fascinating forms of life. Even the little perisher I stepped on one time!

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  3. I’m impressed you’re able to come up with such informative posts with a small turnaround time. Nicely done, and the pictures set them off really well.

    As a SCUBA diver I run into various echinoderms on a regular basis, and there is a wide variety. For example, the cucumber you have there is quite different than those we commonly have in the Pacific NW, and we have several varieties here.

    I actually tasted a California Sea Cucumber once. Cutting it open showed it was mostly a balloon full of water, and what we ate were long narrow strips of muscle running longitudinally along the inside of the cucumber – not the whole thing. We had it fried in butter and garlic, and it tasted like clams.

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    • Thanks Dave, glad you like the posts. Just looked at the California sea cucumber, it’s SO different.I have only ever seen Black ones in Indo-Pacific regions. Still not sure I’ll be trying it, even if it does take like clams…I’m not averse to eating mollusc though!

      Liked by 1 person

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