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These Sea Urchins Wearing Cowboy Hats Is More Than Just Fashion

sea urchin wearing a cowboy hat

The cowboy style is currently trending in human fashion, but did you know it’s become a trend with a certain sea resident as well? Starting as a fun experiment by an aquarium enthusiast, this new-found fashion of sea urchins wearing hats has been adopted by various aquariums around the world.

Although fashionable, this especially designed hat wear has an interesting purpose – let’s find out what it is.

The Science Behind the Fashion

sea urchins
Sea Urchins in the wild using various objects for protection.
©Emilie Novaczek

In the wild, sea urchins are known to cover themselves with rocks, shells, and other objects. This behavior, often seen in tidepools, serves multiple purposes:

  • As a form of camouflage, helping them blend into their surroundings and evade predators
  • As a shield against harmful UV rays
  • As ballast to prevent being swept away by currents

The act of lifting and positioning these objects showcases the remarkable dexterity and strength of sea urchins, despite their seemingly delicate form.

How Are Sea Urchins Able to Lift Things?

Sea urchins possess hundreds of tube feet, each ending in a suction cup, which they skillfully use to manipulate objects. These tube feet, along with their spines, work together to lift and secure items onto their bodies.

The process is nothing short of a spectacle. But it’s also a difficult one; they often try many times before being successful. It involves a coordinated effort where the tube feet grab the object while the spines adjust and maneuver it into place.

Sea Urchins Wearing Hats: How It Started

3-D printed hats
©Wilson Souza

The trend of sea urchins wearing hats began when a Colorado aquarium enthusiast called Wilson Souza noticed their propensity to cover themselves and decided to experiment with 3D-printed hats.

These hats, ranging from cowboy to Viking styles, are designed with an arched bottom to allow the urchins’ spines to grip them effectively. The urchins seem to take to these hats readily, often moving them toward light sources. In other words, they use the hats much as we humans do: as protection against UV rays.

Mickey Mouse Sea Urchins at Disneyland

sea urchins as Mickey mouse at Disneyland
©Dr. Mark Penning – Instagram

Disneyland’s EPCOT center has joined in on this trend, with sea urchins in their tanks donning small Mickey Mouse ears. This playful addition educates visitors about the behavior of these creatures in a fun and accessible way.

It’s a unique intersection of nature and popular culture, illustrating how even marine life can become part of our shared cultural experiences.

Potential Problems Behind the Fashion

sea urchin wearing a cowboy hat
©Wilson Souza

While the idea of sea urchins wearing hats is charming and seemingly harmless, especially in controlled aquarium settings, it raises questions about the impact of human intervention on marine life.

While experts believe that these 3D-printed hats are unlikely to cause harm in aquariums, it’s crucial to approach such interactions with caution and respect for the natural behaviors of marine species.

Sea Urchins Wearing Hats: Conclusion

sea urchin with viking horns
©Wilson Souza

It’s sometimes easy to forget that sea urchins in fact are living creatures, and not just spiky-looking rocks! Beyond the amusement of this fashion trend, it’s an incredible insight into how much they can do despite their immobile nature.

Thank you for reading this story about the sea urchins wearing hats! Uncover more of the ocean’s secrets here:

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