Cannibal Urchins

Six sea urchins of different types and sizes were living harmoniously in my 5 gallon tank while I was getting the 20 gallon tank ready for their return.  My car was not working for a few days so a trip to the beach for sea grasses had to wait.  I guess I waited too late because one morning I found the pink sea urchin on top of the black sea urchin.  After a second look I realized it wasn’t just passing over the purple guy on a trip around the tank…it was eating him from top down. I couldn’t imagine the black one being dead; it looked so lively the night before.  Was the pink urchin that hungry?

I quickly got my wooden spoon (no one getting a spanking!), and pryed the pink one off of the black one.  The black one was missing spines and it was still alive!  How could you do such a thing little pink thing?  I quickly moved the black one to the big tank.   He was still moving around.  He didn’t seem dead, just exhibiting male-patterned baldness.

I’ve heard/read that sea urchins replace their spines.  They’re from the same family as sea stars, echinoderms, which we all know replace their arms when they’re broken off. 

Well, the black urchin has been in the big tank for a few days by himself.  He seems fine; actually thriving.  He’s eating well, climbing on the side walls of the tank, playing with sea shells (you know how they cover themselves).  I added the apple murex eggs and the two apple murex snails.  I noticed a new snail walking around and a new anemone looking thing.  I’ll keep checking on that creature.

We did go out that afternoon to the beach to get a bag of sea grass.

Stay tuned…I can’t wait to see what happens to the sea urchin.  Will it grow new spines?

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I stepped on a sea urchin

Ouch! But when it happened I just thought I kicked a sea shell. When I looked down the tip of my big toe was bleeding. Thankfully I was on land rather than swimming with sharks.

I had 5 purple urchin spine tips in my toe. They all came out easily but one … it figures!

I poked at it once I got it home with tools from the kid’s science equipment and some peroxide. It won’t come out.

My husband said when his dad stepped on a sea urchin the doctor told him that whatever was left in his foot would eventually dissolve. He was ok with that. I’m not. Do I turn into an echinoderm? Do I turn purple? Do I have to eat seaweed the rest of my life? Actually, that wouldn’t be so bad, ’cause it’s tasty.

I did a Google search and found out the doctor was right. So here is what you should do if you step on a sea urchin.

Don’t panic! I didn’t. It’s not so bad. It hurt, and I know my kids would freak if it happened to them, but its not so bad.

Use a tweezer to get the spines out. The one’s I got out had broken off above the skin so I was able to pull them out. You can gently squeeze the sides of the spine with your thumb nails, too.

Be aware … the spines are made of calcium carbonate and they’ll crumble and stick in your skin.  (I guess I got my dose of calcium today!)

As soon as you can apply an antiseptic.  Soak the affected area in a bucket of very warm water with Epsom Salts. Do this several times a day for the duration of the injury. This helps with the pain and softens the skin for spine removal. It may even encourage the spines to either dissolve or be expelled. Apply an antibiotic ointment. If your injury is really painful, take some pain killers (like Goody’s Powder…my favorite because it works so quickly), and elevate the wound.

It could take several weeks for the spines to expell themselves from your skin. Your body may have a hard lump around the injured area, because as it heals, skin cells are reacting to having the foreign object in your body. It will go away.

If the area gets infected go see a doctor.

And last, if there is any purple dye in your foot, don’t worry. That will go away, too.

I also saw a webblog where someone had used duct tape on the injury for several days and the spines eventually surfaced.  I’m opting to treat my injury using the above rather that duct tape.  But good for him that it worked.

I’m going to Sear’s tomorrow and purchase some water shoes at Land’s End. I’ve been thinking I should have some anyway. It is a nasty feeling walking around sea grasses off South Lido Beach, but we love going over there looking for critters for the fish tank.

Today we got 2 shrimp, 2 purple long-spined urchins (I’ve never seen these before and they’re not in my Florida Beaches book), another hermit crab in a fig shell, an apple murex snail and lots of shells and seaweed.

I’ll let you know when this sea urchin spine falls out.

Edited March 24: Ok, so its been a month now.  I haven’t turned purple and spiny so I’m relieved at that.  I did lose a little bit of the spine that was really stuck.  I think there’s more to come.  The tip of my toe remains a little pointy where the spine is.  There’s a tiny piece of scar tissue but I pick it off.  I also still have a scab where I plucked the other spines out; I guess they’ll go away soon.  So, what I’ve learned is…be careful around sea urchins.  I’ve also learned that a lot of people step on or trip over them as well.  This is my top post and is visited daily by a ton of people.  There’s a fishing forum in west Florida that included my post on their site and a lot of referrals come from there (most likely to read about the stupid lady that wasn’t careful on the beach), but many many people just search “how to get sea urchins out of my foot”.  Makes me feel not-so-stupid after all.  LOL.  By the way, we still have the white hermit crab in the fig shell. You can read about his adventures in my post “Salt Water Fish Tank part 5”.

I’m getting older

Yesterday I officially became a year closer to 50.  It was my birthday and I had a nice time. 

Gary and the boys took me to lunch at the Columbia Restaurant at St Armand’s Circle on Lido Key.  I actually requested it.  The Columbia is a fantastic place and I especially enjoy the 1905 Salad.  So now you know what I ordered.  Also good there is the Cuban sandwich but I’m not big on eating meat so I seldom eat it, but its a must to try if you’re planning lunch there.

Gary had to go back to work (no they didn’t give him the day off for my birthday) so the boys and I took off to Long Boat Key and stopped at one of the public accesses just past the fire station.  It was unbelieveable.  The surf was a little rough, the wind was kicking up loose sand (Hurricane Ike’s in town) but it was beautiful.  The surf line was filled with shells.  Mostly kitten paws so we decided to rename Long Boat Key as Kitten Paw Beach.  We’ve spotted many areas along that Key with multitudes of kitten paws so it was fitting.  Along the upper shell hash were tons, and I literally mean tons, of sea urchins as far as the eye could see.  Wow!  I hustled back to the car and pulled out our 3 sand buckets.  We filled them all to overflowing and also carried some in our hands.  There were tiny ones, huge ones and a lot of broken ones we just left.  They must have been there for a few days because they were dead as dead could be.  Most with deteriorated innerds so it’ll be easy to clean them.   The beach was lined by a vacated condo building (all the units had their hurricane blinds on) and a few small homes and a vacant lot so no one had been in the area, except a few folks on their daily walks.  I should go back once Ike leaves our neck of the Gulf, and get some more.  Sea urchin tests are so cool.  Sometimes you can find one with the spine well preserved and if you handle it ultra carefully and soak in tap water until clean the spines may stay on.  I have a few like that…thankfully unstinky. 

So what am I going to do with all of these sea urchins?  What am I going to do with all the shells and sand dollars I’ve been collecting?  Who knows.  But I’m open to suggestions.  Want to buy them?

So we were heading back and crossing over the north bridge to Siesta Key when a common thought of mine popped in my head…it would be so cool to have a sail boat.  I used to sail competitively on other people’s boats on the Chesapeake Bay before I met Gary and began my adventure across the country.  I saw a boat in the bay and it was beautiful.

The boys presented me with my gift.  A bouquet of flowers and a small wooden sail boat…for the coffee table or book shelf.   I got my sailboat!  I was amazed.  What a really cool coincidence.  I’ve always admired the wooden sailboats people display in their homes and always wanted one.  Somehow, though, shoes and haircuts and groceries always trumped any purchase of a wood decorator sailboat.  I guess my family thought it was about time I deserved it.

After a delivery of flowers from my in-laws (oh, so pretty) we finished the day at Bonefish Grill for dinner.  I ordered the grilled shrimp and scallops.  Yum!