Sea urchins are one of the most abundant and ubiquitous echinoderms in our seas, with 950 species dwelling on seabeds. Because of their strong spines, which repel hungry predators, they’re known as the “porcupines of the sea.” Marine animals, on the other hand, are prone to wrap themselves in stones, shells, pebbles, and even small caps.
Morgan Kester, a biologist, recently reported this discovery on social media. “I was today years old when I realized that sea urchins naturally utilize shells as hats for concealment, therefore some aquarists came up with the brilliant idea to create them little hats,” she says. She tweeted photographs of the dapper-looking sea urchins “wearing” 3D-printed cowboy hats, top hats, and fedoras. The caps not only make the sea urchins seem fashionable, but they also keep them secure. Although the specific reason for their “heads” being covered is uncertain, the added weight is thought to assist keep the marine animals from being swept away during storms. The added protection from predators and UV radiation is regarded to be beneficial to sea urchins.
Redditor VanillaBean5813 is one of the people that made headgear for sea urchins. “My dad is the true aquarist (and also a Redditor),” they say, “while I edit 3D models from the internet and my mother operates the 3D printer.” They chose a wide-brimmed hat after experimenting with many types. They recollect, “We went through a couple variations of headgear.” “We discovered that hollow constructions were too airy, and as a result, the witches hat we built was lost.”
Riosouza, a member of the Reed2Reef forum, has also started creating headgear specifically for sea urchins. “I decided to make a fast design for a 3D-printed hat,” they explain, “and to my amazement, they liked it.” “They never left grip of the hats once I replaced the pebbles and shells on their backs with the hats, and I was amazed to see them pulling the hats towards the light source. Which leads me to believe they employ it to protect themselves from UV radiation.”
Emma Verling, a senior post-doctoral researcher at MaREI Centre for Marine and Renewable Energy, clarifies if manufacturing hats for sea urchins is safe: “I believe the 3D hats are a fascinating idea, a good conversation topic, and a good way to teach people about sea urchin ecology… In an aquarium situation, I honestly don’t see how they could cause any harm.”
Photos of the hat-wearing sea urchins may be found below.
People have started producing elegant 3D-printed hats for sea urchins who like to wear shells as protection.
h/t: [Bored Panda]