West Indian sea egg

Lytechinus variegatus

ORDER

Temnopleurida

FAMILY Toxopneustidae

TAXONOMY

Lytechinus variegates Lamarck, 1816.

OTHER COMMON NAMES

English: Short-spined urchin.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Large, up to 3.9 in (10 cm) in diameter with spherical test that appears greenish with green-purple spines. Stalked pedicellar-iae are white or pink and visible to the naked eye.

DISTRIBUTION

Found in coastal lagoons from the southwestern Atlantic to the Caribbean and Brazil. Subtidal to a depth of 1,090 ft (250 m).

HABITAT

Found inhabiting sea grass beds (Thalassia), sandy bottoms, and among rocks. Avoids turbid waters containing high concentrations of suspended silts.

BEHAVIOR

Covers its test with shell fragments, rubble, grass blades, and algae for camouflage or protection against strong sunlight.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Herbivore, feeding on turtle grass (Thalassia). Predators include reef fish, helmet conch (Cassis tuberosa), and shore birds.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Sexual reproduction; spawning season between spring and summer and occurs within the lunar cycle. Metamorphosis of settling young tends to occur in the intertidal regions.

CONSERVATION STATUS Not listed by the IUCN.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS Roe may be consumed locally. ♦

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