Strongylocentrotus purpuratus

Strongylocentrotus purpuratus is the scientific name for the purple sea urchin, a species of sea urchin found along the eastern Pacific coast, from Baja California to Alaska. It is commonly studied in marine biology and developmental biology due to its relatively large size, ease of maintenance in laboratory settings, and its importance as a model organism for research. The purple sea urchin has a spherical body covered in spines and is typically purple or dark red in color, although color can vary. It inhabits rocky shores and seafloors, where it feeds on algae and detritus using its specialized mouthparts called Aristotle's lantern. In research, Strongylocentrotus purpuratus is particularly valuable for studying embryonic development and gene regulation, as its embryos are transparent and develop outside the mother's body, allowing researchers to observe developmental processes easily. Additionally, its genome has been sequenced, making it a useful model for understanding gene function and evolution.

Strongylocentrotus purpuratus — Wikipédia


Strongylocentrotus purpuratus belongs to the phylum Echinodermata, class Echinoidea, and order Echinoida. It is a member of the family Strongylocentrotidae. 


The body of Strongylocentrotus purpuratus is spherical and covered in long, slender spines. These spines serve various functions, including protection from predators and assisting in locomotion. The mouth is located on the underside of the body and is surrounded by five tooth-like plates known as Aristotle's lantern. The urchin has a water vascular system that helps in locomotion, respiration, and feeding. 


Purple sea urchins are found in shallow waters along the eastern Pacific coast, from Baja California, Mexico, to Alaska, United States. They inhabit rocky shores and seafloors, often in intertidal zones or shallow subtidal areas.


Strongylocentrotus purpuratus is primarily herbivorous, feeding on algae and detritus. It uses its specialized mouthparts, Aristotle's lantern, to scrape algae off rocks and other surfaces. In addition to algae, it may also consume small invertebrates and organic matter. 


Purple sea urchins are dioecious, meaning individuals are either male or female. They reproduce sexually, with fertilization occurring externally in the water column. During spawning events, eggs and sperm are released into the water, where fertilization takes place. The resulting embryos develop into free-swimming larvae, which eventually settle and metamorphose into juvenile urchins. 

Research Importance: 

Strongylocentrotus purpuratus is extensively studied in various fields of biology, including developmental biology, evolutionary biology, ecology, and marine biology. Its embryos are particularly valuable for studying early developmental processes due to their transparency and external development. Additionally, the sequencing of its genome has provided insights into gene regulation, evolution, and comparative genomics.

Ecological Role: 

Purple sea urchins play an important role in their ecosystems as herbivores, influencing the abundance and distribution of algae on rocky substrates. They are also prey for a variety of predators, including sea otters, sea stars, and certain fish species.

1st Mar 2024

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