Wednesday 26 April 2017

Fire Urchin

Image: Candace Pratt
Asthenosoma varium
The sea! The sea! The sea is on fire!

We don't need no water 'cos it evidently doesn't have the normally expected effect!

Image: Daniel Kwok
Can't you just see it?

Piles of glowing embers marching out of the sea on thousands of tube-feet and ambulatory spines. A tide of bonfires emerge on the beach. A wall of flames scale the cliffs. A river of lava flows through city streets.

Image: prilfish
It's not easy to find a backdrop this gorgeous to pose in front of
Can you see them burn like creeping lumps of smouldering coal? Can you hear the crackle of their trembling spines? Can you feel... the horror?

No? What do you mean no? This is a perfectly plausible apocalyptic scenario I'm laying out here! I didn't even get to the venom.


Image: Chika Watanabe
Fire Urchins reach a little more than 20 cm (8 in) across and are widespread throughout the Indo-Pacific but yeah, there aren't the countless billions required for them to mount a convincing effort to take over the world.

Hey ho.

Image: prilfish
And they're not actually on fire, either, though they sure look like it! They positively glow, possibly because of the self-confidence one tends to develop when one is covered in venomous spines.

Oh, yeah, venomous spines!

Fire Urchins are covered in spines because: sea urchins. They use some of their lower ones to help them crawl around on sandy and rocky areas of the seabed. The ones on top? They're different. Each one has a swelling just below the tip, and that swelling is of course full of venom. A sting from a Fire Urchin is said to be extremely painful, fiery and flamingly painful, even.

It's a shame land urchins (otherwise known as hedgehogs) aren't venomous. If they were, perhaps they too would glow with vibrant colours that have "nah nah ne-nah nah, you can't touch me" written all over it.

Image: Christian Gloor
A villain glowers from his spiny throne of fire
Despite the fire and spines and venom, a lot of Fire Urchins don't walk alone. Having a whole bunch of stingers on your back is a great defensive strategy. Living on a crawling throne where those same stingers rise like spears from the ground on which you fire-walk - that's pretty good (or villainous) too. And so many a Fire Urchin has one or two Coleman's Shrimp or Zebra Crabs nestling among the spines.

Isn't that cute? It's nice to think that even if you're made of fire and covered in venom-filled syringes, you can still make some friends.


Unknown said...

All right. Nature has just gone too far now.

Joseph JG said...

Nature does that often, it just doesn't know when to stop!