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Importance of the Long Spine Black Urchin

Divers and beachgoers alike have long lamented over the nuisance of sea urchins.

coral world urchinTheir long, skin-piercing spines can cause great discomfort if stepped on or touched, and their spiky appearance makes them seem pretty uninviting. They may seem scary and troublesome, don’t let their reputation fool you. Sea urchins, particularly the Long Spine Black Urchin (Diadema antillarum), are critical to the health and survival of our coral reefs. The diet of these creatures consists mainly of algae that grows aggressively on coral reefs.

Coral Protectors

Algae grows much faster than coral.  It can take thousands of years for coral to grow only a few inches, whereas algae can take as little as a few days. Without long spine urchins, algae would grow unchecked shading the delicate coral from the sun’s rays.  This would eventually kill the coral that requires lots of sunlight in order to flourish and grow. In the 1990’s, long spine black urchins began dying in huge numbers, and it seemed that our reefs were in big trouble. Now, urchin populations are once again thriving in the Caribbean and coral reefs are much better for it. Come check out our urchin tank in Marine Gardens for a close up look that these important animals!