The original NIWA press release is here. These urchins have been getting all sorts of keen press, including here in the N.Z. Herald and here in The Sun. And of here on New Zealand's Maori news..
and I thought.. EVERYONE needs to know more about these exciting urchins! and so today is a bit of a "refresher" on echinothurioid sea urchins!
I wrote a short summary about these for Deep Sea News several years ago...(here) and wrote a short bit about the commensal relationships between these urchins and fish here.
The quick summary version is:
- Mostly deep-sea urchins found all over the world (many in greater than 1500 m depths-in NZ they range from 100 to 5000 m!), but with some shallow water relatives (aka the Fire urchins, I'll save these for another day)
- They often have very sharp and poisonous spines. And yes, the deep-sea ones too...
- They "walk" around on the sea bottom with special spines that have hoof like tips
- They were described FIRST as fossils and the living animals were found AFTER...
|An Atlantic species by Hankplank|
|Image by Neptune Canada|
|Also by Neptune Canada|
Here's the spine close up showing the "walking tip"
|Image from the NIWA Benthic Inverts Facebook page|
|Image from SERPENT project here|
|From the NIWA page on this story|
For those who are not as keen on Scottish headwear, a "Tam o Shanter" is a cap, sort of like a beret (wikipedia here) and you can sort of see the resemblance.
|Image by DrHaggis|
|Image by H2omom.2006|
|Image by Neptune Canada!|
These were all discovered and described by looking at a variety of different characteristics. Some as straightforward as body color as well as spine shape and location. But some characteristics are more subtle. These are the individual pieces of pedicellariae-little claw like structures that are present on all sea urchins..which were studied using a Scanning Electron Microscope to yield distinct shapes...
|Fig. 28 from Anderson 2013|
|Figure 28 from Anderson 2013|