Pancake Urchin Eating Octocoral Colony

A few dives before the end of the Okeanos’ 2014 expedition in the Gulf, we were blessed to witness yet another incredible moment of Echinoderm behavior. This time the species was a pancake urchin and it was eating a helpless octocoral colony!

On April 29, the Okeanos deployed the D2 in the morning like they had for previous days of the expedition. Later on that day, nearing the end of the dive, the team spotted a sea urchin and went in for a closer look. Here’s what they, and all of us watching from shore, saw:

The urchin sidled up to the coral and opened its mouth cavity to reveal five white teeth arranged in a circle.

With languid movement but extreme precision, the urchin clamped its teeth down on one of the coral stalks and brought the piece slowly back into its mouth.

Unfortunately, the ROV pilots were unable to stay any longer in order to meet their allotted time schedule. But according to Stephanie Farrington, the Okeanos’ on-board biologist, the urchin would proceed to eat the coral colony with the same painful lethargy until it was gone. Talk about taking your time with your dinner!

There is no telling what you might see when exploring the unexplored!

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