In appreciation of urchins.

Is this not one of the cutest rock clinging sea creatures you have ever seen? Maybe they are endearing to me because they remind me of Space Invaders, or perhaps, the cartoon Scrubbing Bubbles. Or fat, mutant sunflowers. I was absolutely delighted to see these in Maui tide pools. I may have yelped with joy. How often does one (especially one who has spent quite a lot of time delving into things biological) see a completely different organism? I spent a lot of time photographing these little guys, which I later discovered are called Shingle Urchins, or Helmet Urchins. They must have exceptionally good grip, as they hung out in tide pools that were battered by particularly rough sea surge.

Sea urchins are known for their pokey spines; these instead have flattened scales. I assume this gives them a niche advantage; if pokey urchins were exposed on the rocks like this, there'd be a lot of surface area subject to wave friction. These little guys can munch on algae that pokey urchins, who seem to prefer deeper water, might find too risky to access. I did see the pokey sort too; hiding in rocky crevasses. And, for those of you in the Urchin Know, I saw pencil urchins while snorkeling, another total delight! Pencil urchins have fat, pencil-sized spines (or bigger!) and are a bright tomato red. No underwater camera. Maybe next time. Stay tuned for more Maui photos to come.