Five slow animals

Sea urchin      Sea cucumber      Chiton     Sea tulip     Sea squirt

Sea Urchinurchin

Other Names: Sea egg, kina. (Evechinus chloroticus)

Habitat: Lives on rock ledges and grazes on sponges and weeds. A social animal, groups of them commonly sit around gossipping and nibbling on some delicacy.

Identification: Has a squashed spherical shape and is covered in long, sharp spines which can easily swivel on a ball and socket joint.

General: Sea urchins belong to the family Echinoderm, the spiny-skinned animals. They move by forcing narrow, dark tubes out the spines under water pressure. The tubes are feet and help it move. Their mouths are underneath and they have a five sided jaw known as Aristotles Lantern. They are commonly seen in clusters among clear patches on rocks where they have grazed away all the vegetation.


Sea Cucumbersea cucumber

Other Names: Beche-de-mer, trepang. (Stichopus mollis)

Habitat: Lives amongst stones and weeds.

Identification: This echinoderm has become soft and sausage shaped, with the limy plates of the skeleton set in the skin. Variations between white, brown, grey and black. About 200mm (8 inches) long

General: If disturbed it can throw out sticky white threads, and if handled will often push out its whole stomach. Uses its sticky threads to trawl for food, or if ejected with the stomach, to divert a predator while it escapes.


Other Names: Coat-of-mail shell. Varieties are snake's skin, butterfly and variable chitons. This is a noble chiton, eudoxochiton nobilis. 

Habitat: On rocks among weed and sponge.

Identification: Shell generally has eight overlapping plates bound together by a flexible, leathery girdle.

General: New Zealand's largest chiton, the noble chiton, grows to about 10 cm. The butterfly chiton does not appear to have any shell, but the eight valves can be seen in a row down the back. Chitons feed on seaweed, algae and small crustaceans.


Sea Tuliptulip

Other Names: Kaeo. (Pyura pachydermatina)

Habitat: Lives on rocky shores amongst larger seaweeds.

Identification: Has a long flexible stalk with a large bulb on the end.

General: A member of the Tunicate or sea squirt family, it draws water through one syphon, filters it, and passes it out the other syphon. The current brings food and oxygen to the animal.

Sea Squirtsea squirt

(Cnemidocarpa bicornuata)

Habitat: On rocks among weeds and sponges.

Identification: Has a tough, flexible outer skin with a saddle shape formed by the two horns of its siphons.

General: Water is drawn through one siphon, passes through a delicate sieve inside the animal and is ejected through the other siphon. They are classed as ascidians or tunicates, the name deriving from their tough, leathery tunic-like covering.

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