Of all the animal phyla to highlight for Halloween, the echinoderms may seem like a strange choice. I mean, what threat could sea urchins and starfish possibly pose?
You need to see Jean PainlevÃ©'s 1954 film on the subject. (See link below.)
Part nature documentary, part surrealist dream sequence, Sea Urchins immerses you completely in the creatures' twitching, creeping, alien world with extreme close-ups that make you wonder if you're about to get chewed up, digested and excreted.
This is no Finding Nemo or Little Mermaid. This is totally weird St. John's Revelation meets George Lucas' Sarlacc meets submarine night terror.
It's psychological warfare.
Things to Know
While it's probably best to crank up the Ligeti or Slayer and let the images wash over you, there are a few things you might like to know about.
First is the urchin's unique mouth structure, which goes by the name âAristotle's Lantern'.Â (See image.)Â It features five self-sharpening, calcium carbonate teeth arranged in a ring. Astonishingly, these can chomp through stone no problem.
Next are all those wormy protuberances and spines. The former are tube feet. They help with scuttling around along the seafloor. The latter are there to dissuade predators and can actually regenerate if damaged.
Finally, biologists believe urchins' entire bodies function as a sort of compound eye, affording the little guys a rudimentary vision on par with the horseshoe crab and nautilus.
Enjoy the flick. It's short and will compliment well your annual viewing of Nosferatu or The Exorcist.
- VIDEO: Sea Urchins (YouTube)
- Echinoderms: The Spiny Animals (Oceanic Research Group)
- Sea Urchins Use Whole Body as Eye (The Journal of Experimental Biology)
- Rock-Chewing Sea Urchins Have Self-Sharpening Teeth (National Geographic Daily News)