Much of coral reef biodiversity is hidden in its Swiss-cheese like holes and crevices. Beautiful animals such as these rarely seen urchins never leave the safety of reef crevices. Spectacular species are still being discovered.


Strawberry Urchin (Chondrocidaris brevispina)
From Guam Island, Western Pacific, May 1998

New Urchin (Actonocidaris new species)
From Saipan Island, Western Pacific, Nov. 1997


Invertebrate Zoology


These two animals you’re looking at are sea urchins and they don’t look like your typical sea urchins. They are incredibly gaudy, colorful animals and not only that but they’re hardly ever seen by observers. Humans just don’t encounter these animals and the reason is that they live inside the reef.

Reefs are like a giant Swiss cheese of conduit — a matrix — imagine the movie “The Matrix” there’s like this alternate reality inside the reef full of passages. And many animals live in those passages and never, ever come out. Or maybe they come out only to reproduce, to release their gametes, and these two urchins are members of that community. So most people have never seen them. Because we study these biota and we go into the matrix to chase them down, we have collected them and have a large number of these spectacular animals among our holdings.

The Strawberry Urchin that you see here is probably the most spectacular of the sea urchins and it lives in the tropical reefs of the Indo-Pacific. The other one is a new species that we discovered in this fauna and it is being named after a friend of mine who was a professor of biology here at the University of Florida and died untimely from a tragic cause.

Gustav Paulay
Curator, Invertebrate Zoology*
Florida Museum of Natural History


On display Sept. 23, 2017-Jan. 7, 2018, Rare, Beautiful & Fascinating: 100 Years @FloridaMuseum celebrated the Museum’s rich history. Each Museum collection was asked to contribute its most interesting items and share the stories that make them special. Though the physical exhibit is closed, this companion website remains online, providing an opportunity to experience the Florida Museum’s most treasured specimens.

Exhibit Area: Objects Tell Stories

Theme: Biodiversity Hot Spots (Reefs)

Cover of the All Things Beautiful bookWant to see more? Explore more than 300 breathtaking color photos of plants, animals, fossils and cultural heritage materials from the Florida Museum of Natural History’s collections in the award-winning book All Things Beautiful available from the University Press of Florida.

*This title was accurate at the time the exhibit was on display in 2017. Please visit the collection website to verify current staff and student information.

You Might Also Like