Echinoidea (Sea urchin)
Sea urchins are spiny, globular echinoderms in the class Echinoidea. About 950 species of sea urchin live on the seabed of every ocean and inhabit every depth zone — from the intertidal seashore down to 5,000 metres (16,000 ft; 2,700 fathoms). The spherical, hard shells (tests) of sea urchins are round and spiny, ranging in diameter from 3 to 10 cm (1 to 4 in). Sea urchins move slowly, crawling with tube feet, and also propel themselves with their spines. Although algae are the primary diet, sea urchins also eat slow-moving (sessile) animals. In the food chain, the predators who eat sea urchins are the sea otter and the starfish, the wolf eel, the triggerfish, and human beings.
Adult sea urchins have fivefold symmetry, but their pluteus larvae feature bilateral (mirror) symmetry, indicating that the sea urchin belongs to the Bilateria group of animal phyla, which also comprises the chordates and the arthropods, the annelids and the molluscs, and are found in every ocean and in every climate, from the tropics to the polar regions, and inhabit marine benthic (sea bed) habitats, from rocky shores to hadal zone depths. The fossil record of the Echinoids dates from the Ordovician period, some 450 million years ago; the closest echinoderm relatives of the sea urchin are the sea cucumbers (Holothuroidea); both are deuterostomes, a clade that includes the chordates.
The animals have been studied since the 19th century as model organisms in developmental biology, as their embryos were easy to observe; this has continued with studies of their genomes because of their unusual fivefold symmetry and relationship to chordates. Species such as the slate pencil urchin are popular in aquariums, where they are useful for controlling algae. Fossil urchins have been used as protective amulets.