I find Sea Urchins to be beautiful and mesmerizing. Thousands of miles away from where I am now, on a deserted beach in Costa Rica, very near Panama I would lay speckled, black sand mingling with my freckles and watch them in the tidal pools. The pools were part of my daily entertainment and they filled me with wonder. They were temporary and tenuous, constantly in flux. Their form lasting one day, and one day only, never to delight again in the exact same way. Where the sweetwater meets the saltwater, strange things would come to gather, and mingle in a dance the way two worlds do when they meet. Often trapped in these pools I would find sea urchins, cut-off from their ocean environment, lost from their world.

Sometimes mine would be the benevolent hand to return them to the sea. Their purple spines gather, at a touch, and swell to meet your fingertip, contracting in defense. Turn them over in your hand and their mouth, like a miniature vagina dentata, is all triangular white teeth and monstrous looking. Water clings to their spines with ever so curved barbs on them that hold droplets of water so hesitantly. I love to watch them move, so organically, instinctively, sensuously.

Sometimes, I would leave it in its quickly evaporating home, watch it parch, watch it dry in the tropical sun, until it was lethargic, dying, stiff. When death comes to a sea urchin, its spines are lost, its devilish mouth gone. Fire ants come marching, and eat it, clean away. A circular cap, bumpy and segmented is all that remains, looking like a spider monkey's teacup.

Once, while eating a breadfruit and drinking a pipa, a large, languid iguana came to call. He smelled the perfume of my cast away rinds and munched silently at my side on my leftovers, likewise pondering the surf, the wind and my urchin shell. As I could tell he coveted it greatly, I made it a gift to him as a hat, and he liked it quite well I think.

I had thought that sea urchins moved too slowly to detect… until I saw them mating one magical evening in the Caymans. Sea urchins can move pretty quickly when motivated by sex.

I was coming back to the dock from a short snorkel, and was floating about 4 feet over a bottom covered by spiny sea urchins. I paused, and was stunned to find that they were moving. They were going amazingly fast – at least for them. And all of the urchins in my area were moving toward one point – a high rock with a single urchin on it.

One of the suitors reached the rock first and let out what looked like a puff of smoke. I thought this was premature ejaculation, since he was still 1.5 feet from the female, but he meant to do it. Nearly as soon as he released the sperm (or was it just a scent signal?) all of the other urchins stopped moving.

The male then moved close to the female. They got much closer than I had imagined spiny animals could get without poking each other’s eyes out. After a minute or so together, they moved apart about an inch and the female released eggs from the top of her body. She moved away a little, the male moved toward her and released sperm. They kept doing this, but I’m not sure of how long. When I emerged from the water the sun was nearly set and the rest of the guests had their pre-dinner beer buzz going nicely. I was probably in the water for over an hour. I don’t wear a watch or pay any attention to time when I’m on vacation, so it’s hard to be sure. And you know how time flies when you’re watching live urchin porn.

Sea" ur"chin (?). Zool.

Any one of numerous species of echinoderms of the order Echinoidea.

When living they are covered with movable spines which are often long and sharp.


© Webster 1913.

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