Monday, 13 February 2012

Science outlook: Echinoderms

“Eekino… whats? Huh? What in the world are you talking about? “ Oh, you mean you don’t know what those are? It’s pretty fun to teach A the Latin name for random things.  If you are interested, Echinoderms are Sea Urchins. 

Aren’t we all fascinated by those guys? Covered in spines – some short, some long, white, black, or striped; those guys are just neato.  What is better is when they die, they leave behind the prettiest skeleton. It can be teeny tiny or extra large super combo sized. However, both end of the spectrum are pretty hard to find unless you know where to look. 

I remember snorkeling with my parents and seeing them grab up a long spiny sea urchin and cut it open to attract fish – the fish around here LOVE those guys, I also remember seeing people “harvest” them – especially the bigger ones and take them home to dry out and put on shelves.  I never thought about the ethics of that until now, but would I do it….. umm, maybe.  Shoot me ok, get mad at me for that statement, but I just might – especially if it was HUGE.  I think though, that a part of me would feel really bad about doing that, so rather than go with my baser instinct, the kids and I went on an echinoderm hunt the other day.

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We started off the day going to a beach near the north side where I had heard there were a lot of them(of the bigger variety) that occasionanly washed up on shore, we found one and it was big, but C was unhappy and kept whining the whole time, so I packed us up and went to another beach on the South Shore.  We found some tiny and medium ones, but our real find on that beach was a Helmet Conch.  Those conchs are rare – I don’t think I’ve ever seen one in the wild! Finally we went to our last ditch beach where I knew I had seen some monster big ones feeding – SCORE!!! We came home with at least 10 in semi perfect condition.  Some still had a lot of meat in them as I think they had just died and were literally washing up on shore. The car got really stinky on the way home even thought the windows were down, and we have them sitting on various ant piles right now, but once they are all clean, we should have some nice dust catchers on our shelves.

Here are some random facts we learned about Echinoderms before we went hunting (it was after all a science lesson):
  • Echinoderms means spiny skin
  • Some Sea Urchins can live to be over 200 years old
  • There are red, black, blue, brown, stripped, white, pink, and green urchins
  • Urchin eggs are a delicacy in Japan
  • There is a whole industry around harvesting Sea Urchins
  • They are NOT endangered
  • When Urchins reproduce, the male lets his sperm float out into the water, then the female releases her eggs and if they chance to touch – BAHM! A baby Urchin is born.
  • Sea Urchins have 5 teeth that grow continuously and they have to eat all the time to grind them down (like Beavers)
It was fun, educational, and fit the bill for a perfect science trip. 

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