Today’s Marine Monday, the National Museum Bohol features the Collector Urchin (Tripneustes gratilla), reef dwellers that help in the sustainability of coral reefs.
The collector urchin, known in Bohol as Swaki, is an Echinoderm like the starfish and the sea cucumber. Echinoderms are exclusively marine animals commonly found in shallow tropical waters inhabiting sea grass beds, coral reef areas and macroalgae communities.
Collector urchins have round dark bluish-purple shells with green, orange, and white spines. They collect debris such as fragments of shells and detritus for camouflage, hence the name collector urchin. Known as gardeners of the reef, these marine critters play an important role in keeping the reef groomed and healthy, feeding on seaweeds that affect coral growth. Reef animals such as puffer fish, octopus, crabs and wrasse feed on collector urchins.
Adult collector urchins only spawn eggs once a year. It takes about 2-5 years for a growing sea urchin to become fully matured and reproduce.
In Bohol, the collector urchin is considered a delicacy in coastal communities. It can be eaten raw or grilled in an open fire before opening the shell and scooping its flesh. It is a good source of fiber, Vitamins A, and E, protein, calcium and iodine.
Although still common, sustainability of collector urchins must still be considered as they play a vital role in reef ecosystems and biodiversity.