Green Sea Urchin
(Lytechinus variegatus)

Size:
Length - Maximum of approx. 4 – 5 inches
Weight - Maximum of approx. 5 – 10 oz.

Range:
The green sea urchin or as it is often called, the variegated se urchin, frequently inhabits the warm waters of the western Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and Gulf of Mexico.

Habitat:
Utilizing warm tropical waters, the green sea urchin prefers rocky reefs, but can also be found in loose sand and mud, or on sea grass beds.

Diet:
The green sea urchin can feed on a variety of items ranging from microalgae to flesh and other detritus. However, they have strong preferences for items like kelp and specific species of algae that enhance gonadal development.

Life History:
The growth of green sea urchins is directly correlated to the availability and quality of food. Typically urchins will become sexually mature by the age of 3 years, at which time they will have a diameter of over 1 inch. Mature females may posses over 2 million eggs at once, and when ripe both males and females will release gametes into the water stimulating the other urchins in the area to do the same.

Importance to Fisheries and Aquaculture:
Urchin roe is a delicacy throughout the world, and as such fisheries have been targeting these echinoderms for many years. In Japan, where sea urchin is mist popular, the wild stocks are recovering from overfishing. As such additional pressure has been placed on stocks in other regions. As such, it may soon become economical to begin farming these species to meet market demand while avoiding the adverse ecological impacts associated with removing important species from an ecosystem.

Fun Fact:
Green sea urchins can often be found with a bit of debris stuck in their spines. It is now thought that this debris is not coincidental, but in fact urchins are utilizing the resources on hand to gain additional protection from the strong UV radiation found in the shallow waters they inhabit.