Based on a recent paper (Cahiers de Biologie Marine 49: 299-302) by Eleni Voultsiadou and Chariton Chintiroglou at Aristotle University in Thessaloniki, Greece we have a new perspective on the roots of the special jaw apparatus found in sea urchins (see below).
A nice review of sea urchins and Aristotle's Lantern is found at Daily Kos.
So. All up to speed? Aristotle's Lantern. check. Sea Urchin jaw. check. Great!
The "backstory" about this structure, of course, invokes the famous Greek scientist/ philosopher Aristotle who at some point apparently described this structure as a "lantern".
WHAT IF Aristotle's Lantern ACTUALLY referred to the WHOLE BODY (i.e., the test)?? And what we've been taught all along was actually wrong (or mistaken)??
In respect of its beginning and end the mouth (or body) of the urchin is continuous, though in respect of its superficial appearance it is not continuous, but similar to a lantern not having a surrounding skin.This little section is apparently problematic for several reasons:
- it is unclear whether the text refers to stoma, i.e. jaw apparatus or soma, i.e., body (hence drawing attention to the mouth vs. body)
- the phrase "surrounding skin" and mention of continuity.
Thus, an ACTUAL lantern from Aristotle's time, looks like this (remember the lamp or light source goes inside):
Now, compare and contrast with the MODERN version of a lantern! (with a "lamp" inside)
They proceed to outline how all of the additional incongruities of the original passage can explained based on the assumption that Aristotle was comparing the sea urchin test with a bronze lantern, distinguishing it from those ancient lanterns which were made of skin or other soft material.
Thus, they propose that the "test of the sea urchin and NOT the jaw apparatus should be called 'Aristotle's Lantern'."