Amanda holding the Variegated Sea Urchin at Old Dan Bank.
The Variegated Sea Urchin, Lytechinus variegatus, is a a type of echinoderm that is commonly found in the Western Atlantic, specifically Florida, and the Caribbean. They like to inhabit shallow waters with minimal wave action. It can be found on rocky or sandy bottoms. We found the Variegated Sea Urchin in Old Dan Bank and Old Sweat Bank. This is exactly what we would expect because both of those areas are shallow waters with intermediate to minimal wave action. It is particularly fond of imbedding itself in the turtle seagrass, Thalissia testudinum (http://www.sealifebase.org/summary/Lytechinus-variegatus.html). They are known to live in waters that are less than 50 meters in depth. It is characterized by short spines as well as the test, skeleton, being hemispherical on the bottom. It is a small benthic sea creature, with the total diameter being 110 millimeters and the test diameter at 85 millimeters. (https://www.sms.si.edu/irlspec/Lytech_varieg.htm).
Myself holding the Variegated Sea Urchin at Old Dan Bank.
It primarily feeds on turtle grass with the aid of the Aristotle's lantern. Aristotle's lantern is a bony structure in the mouth that contains five unique pyramid-shaped teeth. (https://sta.uwi.edu/fst/lifesciences/documents/Lytechinus_variegatus.pdf). It will also feed on phytoplankton with the help of its tube feet and spines. It can be found in high numbers throughout beds of turtle grass. Variegated Sea Urchins normally have separate sexes, male and female, but have the potential to also be hermaphroditic. They will reproduce through external fertilization, where both the male and female will release their gametes into the water. The eggs, once fertilized, will eventually morph into swimming larvae. This specific species of Sea Urchin spawns during the new and full moon. (http://www.sealifebase.org/summary/Lytechinus-variegatus.html#). There is no parental care within this species.