Fine Art

Paracentrotus lividus

Paracentrotus lividus , Photo: Michael Lahanas

Superregnum: Eukaryota
Cladus: Unikonta
Cladus: Opisthokonta
Cladus: Holozoa
Regnum: Animalia
Subregnum: Eumetazoa
Cladus: Bilateria
Cladus: Nephrozoa
Superphylum: Deuterostomia
Phylum: Echinodermata
Subphylum: Eleutherozoa
Superclassis: Cryptosyringida
Classis: Echinoidea
Subclassis: Euechinoidea
Superordo: Echinacea
Ordo: Echinoida

Familia: Echinidae
Genus: Paracentrotus
Species: Paracentrotus lividus

Paracentrotus lividus (Lamarck, 1816)

Echinus lithophagus Leach, in Tilloch, 1812
Echinus lividus Lamarck, 1816
Echinus purpureus Risso, 1826
Echinus saxatilis
Echinus vulgaris Blainville, 1825
Strongylocentrotus lividus (Lamarck, 1816)
Toxocidaris livida (Lamarck, 1816)
Toxopneustes lividus (Lamarck, 1816)

Primary references

Lamarck, J.B.A.P. De 1816. Histoire naturelle des animaux sans vertèbres, (présentant les caractères généraux et particuliers de ces animaux, leur distribution, leurs classes, leurs familles, leurs genres, et la citation des principales espèces qui s'y rapportent; précédée d'une introduction offrant la détermination des characteres essentiels de l'animal, sa distinction du végétal et des autres corps naturels, enfin, l'exposition des principes fondamentaux de la Zoologie). Tome 2. pp. 1–568. Paris: Verdière. BHL Reference page.

Additional references

Hansson, H.G. 2001, "Echinodermata", Costello, M.J. et al. (Ed.) (2001), European register of marine species: a check-list of the marine species in Europe and a bibliography of guides to their identification, Collection Patrimoines Naturels, 50: pp. 336-351.


Paracentrotus lividus in the World Register of Marine Species
Paracentrotus lividus – Taxon details on Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS).

Vernacular names
català: Garota de roca
Deutsch: Steinseeigel
Ελληνικά: Κόκκινος αχινός
English: Stony sea urchin
español: Erizo de mar común
français: Oursin-pierre
hrvatski: Ježinac kamenjar
italiano: Riccio femmina
Nederlands: Zeeappel
português: Ouriço verde
shqip: Iriqi i purpurt i detit

Paracentrotus lividus is a species of sea urchin in the family Parechinidae commonly known as the purple sea urchin. It is the type species of the genus and occurs in the Mediterranean Sea and eastern Atlantic Ocean.[1]


Paracentrotus lividus has a circular, flattened greenish test with a diameter of up to seven centimetres. The test is densely clothed in long and sharply pointed spines that are usually purple but are occasionally other colours including dark brown, light brown and olive green. There are five or six pairs of pores on each ambulacral plate. The tube feet are in groups of 5 or 6, arranged in small arcs.[2]


P. lividus is found throughout the Mediterranean Sea and in the eastern Atlantic Ocean from western Scotland and Ireland to the Azores, Canary Islands and Morocco. It is most common in the western Mediterranean, the coasts of Portugal and the Bay of Biscay, where the water temperature in winter varies between 10 and 15 °C.[3]
The purple sea urchin is spiny but not dangerous, and it can be held in hand with some care.

P. lividus is usually found just below low water mark at depths down to twenty metres and sometimes also in rock pools. It is found on rocks and boulders, and in seagrass meadows of Zostera marina and Posidonia oceanica. Although Cymodocea nodosa is a preferred food item, it is seldom found in meadows of this seagrass, perhaps because the shifting sand substrate does not suit it or because of pressure from predators. In fact it avoids soft substrates and can sometimes be found clustered on stones or shell "islands" surrounded by sand. In shallow or exposed waters it can use its mouth and spines to dig into soft rocks to create cavities into which it returns and in which it exactly fits. Where the urchins are numerous, the rock may be honeycombed by these excavations. Smaller individuals particularly use these retreats, which provide some protection from predators. In lagoons and rock pools, individuals are smaller than they are in the open sea. P. lividus is unable to tolerate low salinity. After exceptional quantities of rain fell in Corsica in the autumn of 1993, there was mass mortality of urchins in the Urbini Lagoon. However, the urchin is relatively unaffected by organic pollution and heavy metals. In fact, it flourishes near sewage outlets. There are wide swings in population densities over its range, which have not been completely explained.[3]

Individual P. lividus are either male or female although hermaphroditism has been observed.[3] They aggregate for spawning and release gametes into the water column. The larvae form part of the zooplankton for about 28 days before settling and undergoing metamorphosis.[3]

Paracentrotus lividus is a generalist browser, eating a range of red, green and brown algae in addition to seagrass.[4] The benthic community is much affected by the number of urchins and their food preferences. Where they are numerous they tend to be surrounded by "barren ground" colonised by encrusting Corallinaceae species and characterised by a low biomass of primary producers with a small number of associated species. Where numbers are low, there tend to be forests of Laminaria and Cystoseira and a much richer, three-dimensional community. The barren grounds can persist for years though whether this is due to overgrazing by urchins or prevention of recruitment of multicellular photosynthetic organisms by encrusting algae is unclear.[3]

Some juveniles of small fish species shelter among the spines. These include the clingfishes Apletodon incognitus and Lepadogaster candolii and the gobies, Gobius bucchichi, Zebrus zebrus and Millerigobius macrocephalus.[5]

The main predators on P. lividus in the Mediterranean Sea are the spider crab (Maja crispata), the fish Diplodus sargus, Diplodus vulgaris, Labrus merula and Coris julis and the gastropod, Hexaplex trunculus. The spiny starfish (Marthasterias glacialis) is a main predator elsewhere. Predation is dependent on size; juvenile urchins are more vulnerable as their spines are less formidable. In most locations the urchins are nocturnal feeders, but where predators are more active at night the urchins may feed during day instead.[3]
Use as food
Sea urchins roe in Alghero, Sardinia

The gonads are considered a delicacy in Lebanon, France, Italy, Spain, Malta, and parts of Croatia, most notably on the island of Korčula, and are also eaten to a lesser extent in Greece. The urchins have been harvested for export over a wider area including Croatia, Portugal and Ireland.[3]

Paracentrotus lividus (Lamarck, 1816) World Register of Marine Species. Retrieved 2011-08-23.
Purple sea urchin - Paracentrotus lividus Marine Life Information Network. Retrieved 2011-08-23.
Boudouresque, Charles & Verlaque, Marc (2001). "Ecology of Paracentrotus lividus". Edible Sea Urchins: Biology and Ecology. Developments in Aquaculture and Fisheries Science. Vol. 32. pp. 177–216. doi:10.1016/s0167-9309(01)80013-2. ISBN 9780444503909.
Cardoso, André C.; Arenas, Francisco; Sousa-Pinto, Isabel; Barreiro, Aldo; Franco, João N. (April 2020). "Sea urchin grazing preferences on native and non-native macroalgae". Ecological Indicators. 111: 106046. doi:10.1016/j.ecolind.2019.106046.
Patzner, R. A. (1999). "Sea urchins as hiding-place for juvenile benthic teleosts (Gobiidae and Gobiesocidae) in the Mediterranean Sea". Cybium. 23 (1): 93–97.

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