Devil In Disguise – The Most Toxic Sea urchin

Devil In Disguise – The Most Toxic Sea urchin

The Most Toxic Sea Urchin Resides In Thai Waters

The most toxic sea urchin is not the fire urchin as you might think. That would make sense, a name that would stop anybody with a functional brain from touching it. So what have scientists named the most toxic urchin? They’ve gone for flower urchin – thanks. There’s ample space for another more suitable word. Hell, agony or stinging flower urchin would have all given us a hint to stay well away.

I’m Alright Jack

The scientists have certainly looked after themselves. The scientific name (toxopneustes) means toxic foot so anybody in the scientific community or who is verse in latin will know to give it a wide berth. It’s just the remaining 99.9% of the earths population who could get fooled by the cutesy name.

You can do it – scorpionfish, stingfish, waspfish, demon stinger and fire coral all let us know to avoid contact. I’m not saying every dangerous animal should have a deathly moniker, with most you can tell by just looking. You wouldn’t pat a saltwater crocodile on the head and not expect to lose a limb or four. Just help us out the common folk with the more unremarkable looking creatures. Anyway, the animal itself…

More Subterfuge

It’s a very beautiful urchin, covered in small colourful triangle and circular appendages. These are the ‘flowers’ from whence it gets its name. It does have spines but they’re not as prominent as on most urchins. Surprisingly the spines aren’t where it deals out the pain from. The small flower like appendages are what make it the most toxic sea urchin. Each one has a tiny hook that houses the venom. They’re strong enough to pierce human skin and can detach to give you a nice little memento.

mushroom shaped toxic flowers on the most toxic sea urchin

mushroom shaped toxic flowers on the most toxic sea urchin

How Toxic is It?

Well the good news is that there’s been no substantiated deaths although it has been a suspect in some drownings. The symptoms are said to include: dizzyness, paralysis of lips, tongue and eyelids, limb relaxation, respiration difficulty and severe pain. A recorded instance suggested that the symptoms receded over the course of an hour but facial paralysis remained for 6 hrs.

So it looks like the venom itself is not enough to finish you. However a combination of those symptoms could cause drowning for a snorkeler or diver.

Natural Velcro

The flower urchin covers itself with debris, why we’re not sure. It’s very unlikely that it’s defensive, the flower urchin is obviously very capable of dealing with threats. It uses the the small hooks like velcro to attach the debris which possibly protect it from sunlight.

the most toxic urchin covering behaviour

the most toxic urchin covering behaviour

How Common Are Toxic Flower Urchins

Not to sure around Phuket but definitely at Racha Yai and Richelieu Rock in the Surin Islands National Park. However the covering behaviour can make them very difficult to spot and there may be more than we think. Most will not be aware of how toxic this beautiful little urchin is so it’s probably pretty much ignored.

If I get Stung By A Toxic Flower Urchin

First off you need to get to the surface as quickly as safely possible. It’s a protein based venom so the general first aid recommendation is to immerse the affected area in water as hot as you can tolerate without scalding. Remove any of the stings and seek professional medical attention.

Take a Phuket diving daytrip with Local Dive Thailand to find your devil in disguise.

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By Justin Hartrey

I've been enjoying the incredible marine life in our oceans for over 25 years. 13 years ago I became a PADI professional, hoping to introduce as many people as possible to the incredible beauty of the seas.

Having been fortunate enough to dive all over south east and especially Thailand, I enjoy sharing my experience and passion on this blog.

Posted in Rare & Peculiar Critters on .

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