Tag Archives: Echinoderms

Urchin Day + Snorkel Fun

Hi everyone! I saw so many urchins today!! Before I get into those, I’ll give a quick rundown of the day’s activities. Today consisted mainly of two projects: determining the percent coverage of live coral on the reef and collecting sea urchins. This morning we took a boat out to a patch reef in the lagoon and used transects and quadrats to count the number of live coral, recently dead coral, and macroalgae among other things to determine the health of the coral reef. Since sea urchins both help the coral by consuming the algae that live on them and harm the coral by boring into them, we also did a timed sea urchin collection to see how many urchins we could all catch and returned to the island to identify and measure them. In the afternoon, we repeated the morning’s activities outside of the lagoon.

Slate pencil urchins (Eucidaris tribuloides)
Slate pencil urchins (Eucidaris tribuloides)

Now on to the sea urchins!! In the lagoon alone, we collected over a hundred Echinometra viridis (a small brown/red urchin with spines that have a pale ring close to the body). We also found quite a few Eucidaris tribuloides (commonly known as slate pencil urchins, reddish brown body with blunt spines) and some Tripneustes ventricosus (an urchin with a black/dark purple body and short white spines) hiding in the coral crevices in the lagoon.

A long-spined sea urchin (Diadema antillarum)
A long-spined sea urchin (Diadema antillarum)

In the afternnon, we also collected some Diadema antillarum (a long-spined sea urchin whose spines easily penetrate skin) among the coral and a few Meoma ventricosa, both the live and dead versions (a flattened globe urchin with a reddish body and a five petal design on its back) buried in the sand along with the other species. It was interesting to me that we found the long-spined urchins and red heart urchins mainly outside of the lagoon, while inside we mainly were able to find the viridis species.

Several reef urchins (Echinometra viridis)
Several reef urchins (Echinometra viridis)

In other words, it was a very exciting day for me! I absolutely loved getting to find, hold, and work with the urchins more today. 🙂 I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings and what echinoderms I’ll spot tomorrow. Thanks for reading everybody!

Transects + First Echinoderm Spotting + Fossilized Coral

Hello everyone! Today was an exciting but tiring first full day at Glover’s Reef. We began the morning with a snorkeling scavenger hunt on the patch reefs nearby, looking for behaviors like antagonistic interactions as well as different kinds of organisms, followed by a transect activity on land to determine the abundance of crab holes in the area. After lunch, we went out to the reef for our second transect activity focusing on the abundance and density of different species of green algae.

Utilizing transects underwater
Utilizing transects underwater in a green algae project

While we were in the water, I got the chance to hold my first echinoderm (!!!!), a sea urchin. It was about the size of my palm, had a reddish brown body and pale cream colored spines that got slightly darker closer to its body, and was found among the seagrass beds by the dock. It was a West Indian Sea Egg (Tripneustes ventricosus). It felt kind of weird when I was holding it, with the mouth suctioning at my hand and the spines poking me ever so slightly, but it was really cool as well.

First echinoderm identification! A West Indian Sea Egg, (Tripneustes ventricosus)
First echinoderm identification! A West Indian Sea Egg, (Tripneustes ventricosus)

Later on, we visited an area covered with fossilized coral. It was fascinating to examine the (almost) perfectly preserved pieces and try to identify them. I learned a lot about the different kinds of polyps and ridges that a coral can have and I’m looking forward to going back out to the reefs to look for the live versions of all the corals we saw. That’s all for today everybody! Thanks for reading! 🙂

Pieces of fossilized coral
Pieces of fossilized coral

Boat Ride + First Snorkel at Glover’s Reef

Hi everyone! We finally made it to Glover’s Reef! This morning we woke up and got another chance to visit the zoo. We visited Charlie the Scarlet Macaw (who said hello to me!) and also saw some other animals that we didn’t get a chance to see last night such as a howler monkey. It was cool to see so many extraordinary animals that we had been so close to in the rainforest in such close proximity again.

Charlie the scarlet macaw from the Belize Zoo
Charlie the scarlet macaw from the Belize Zoo

After our quick zoo stop, we took a bus to the Princess Marina, had a quick lunch at Calypso restaurant at the pier, and then loaded a boat to head to Glover’s Reef. The scenery along the boat ride was absolutely glorious; the water color varied from beautiful shades of turquoise to cerulean and the sea breeze was really refreshing after so many days in the rainforest. Soon after we got here, we all headed to the water for our first snorkel.

Princess Marina
Princess Marina

Being in the water here was exciting but also a little bit of a struggle for me because I had some trouble with my snorkel and getting it to attach to the correct side, so I was not able to explore quite as long today. On that note, my taxa here is echinoderms (sea stars, sea cucumbers, sea urchins, and brittle stars), and I know where they’re supposed to be on the reef so expect to read more about them in the coming days as I get a chance to search the crevices in the coral and sand in more detail! I’ll be sure to share my sightings here. For now, I’ll share a couple fun facts about echinoderms instead: sea stars can push their stomachs outside of their body and externally digest their prey and  echinoderms can regenerate parts of their body if necessary. Isn’t that cool? 🙂

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Wonderful view of the reef from our room