Science News

Seas Longest Lived Animal – The Sea Urchin

Sun, 16th Nov 2003

Part of the show Left and Right Handedness

Researchers have discovered the real old man or old woman of the sea – the humble sea urchin – which can live over 200 years ! Studying specimens of red sea urchins off the coat of America, marine zoologist Thomas Ebert has found that the urchins grow quite quickly as youngsters, but once they become teenagers their rate of growth slows down dramatically, but remains regular year on year. By measuring how big a sea urchin is, you can tell how old it is. Ebert has confirmed the ages of the urchins using radio carbon dating, and some of the specimens found off British Columbia are over 19 centimetres in diameter which would make them over 200 years old. Intriguingly, unlike humans, old sea urchins don’t look their age and are also more fertile and produce more eggs and sperm than their younger counterparts. Previously scientists thought that sea urchins lived for only 5-7 years but the more detailed understanding we now have thanks to this new study will help us to ensure their survival for much longer !


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