Of Sun and Urchins

Yesterday was another beautiful day in Jamaica. It was a bit windy and the water a bit choppy, but what’s that compared to the winter weather back home? We spent the day working on our projects as usual. My project is to determine if two species of sea urchins, Tripneustes and Lytenchinus, have any preference as to what they use as camouflage. We’ve all seen them covering themselves in algae, rocks and shells, and my project is to see if they randomly pick up items or if they selectively choose what they use. I have gone to a couple of seagrass beds in Discovery Bay to tally up the number of urchins I see hiding there. There are many of them that are so covered up that all you see is a pile of algae and pebbles. I have also set up a lab experiment where both species are put into tanks and presented with things to cover themselves with. So far it seems that Lytenchinus really doesn’t want to get eaten, and covers itself with clumps of algae, rocks, shells, and coral. Tripneustes, on the other hand, sometimes cover themselves with things, but sometimes they could care less. "Eat me!" (Though I could hardly imagine trying to eat a big ball of spines…But I’m sure other animals find them quite tasty.)

Only five days until we’re headed home, folks…Until then, stay warm, and we’ll see you soon! Later, mon!

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