Sea Urchins Wear Shell ‘Hats’ So Aquarists Made Tiny Fedoras For Them To Wear Instead

You may not realize this, but in the oceans, there are 950 different species of sea urchin. They are one of the most common creatures found in the waters of the sea. Referred to by some as the “porcupines of the sea” because of the long spines they wear, they really don’t fit into the description very well. In fact, they will often cover themselves with little hats, stones, or shells to avoid danger.

Morgan Kester is a biologist who recently shared something interesting on social media. She said: “I was today years old when I learned that sea urchins naturally use shells as hats for camouflage, so some aquarists had the genius idea to make them tiny hats.”

That is when she posted a picture of the little sea urchins wearing 3D printed hats, including cowboy hats, fedoras, and top hats. It wasn’t just so that they were the best-looking creatures in the aquarium, it was for safety. Even though nobody is sure why they cover their heads in this way, they think that it keeps them from being washed away when a storm occurs. It may also keep them from predators and protect them from UV rays.

VanillaBean5813 is a writer who has made these hats in the past. They said: “My dad is the real aquarist (and also a Redditor), I modify 3D models from the internet, and my mom runs the 3D printer.” A number of different hat styles were tested before a wide-brimmed option was selected.

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Information was also posted to the Reef2Reef forum by someone who has also been making hats for sea urchins. They said: “I decided to do a quick design for a 3D-printed hat, and for my surprise they absolutely love it. Since I replaced the rocks and shells from their back with the hats, they never let it go, and I was astonished to see them moving the hats towards the light source. Which leads me to the conclusion they certainly use it against excessive UV rays.”

A senior postdoctoral researcher at MaREI Centre for Marine and Renewable Energy, Emma Verling shed some light on how you can get involved. She told Bored Panda, “I think the 3D hats are a fun idea, a great talking point, and a way to educate people as to the complex ecology of sea urchins…I honestly don’t see that they could do any harm in an aquarium setting.”

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