A group of scientists exploring deep waters surrounding Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands managed to catch a sea urchin in a compromising situation this week, and they live streamed it around the world.
“Today we saw a deep-sea sea urchin poop!” posted NOAA scientists, tweeting a picture of the guilty urchin sitting next to a pile. “Yes, it’s true! Sea urchins, like many animals, will expel poop.”
To say the NOAA scientists were excited is putting it mildly.
An entire mission report was devoted to the defecating moment, documenting it from beginning to end.
“We saw a deep-sea pancake urchin, Araeosoma, feeding on what seemed to be Sargassum, a type of seaweed from the ocean surface that sank to a depth of 2,116 feet,” says the report.
“This was followed by a healthy payload of feces after its meal. Urchin mouths are on the bottom of their body; during digestion, food travels up the intestine to the anus, which sits on the top of the body.”
So, it’s best not to step on a sea urchin.
As for what happens to poop in place where the sun doesn’t shine, “everything from worms to small crustaceans to single-celled organisms will continue to digest the processed food released by the urchin,” says NOAA.
The “amazing” moment came during Dive 6 of the 22-day Océano Profundo 2018 expedition, which is mapping and collecting samples from “poorly understood deepwater areas” off Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. It’s being live streamed here each day.
Remote cameras are being used to scan areas as deep as 19,685 feet, says NOAA.
In the past week, the cameras have also captured images of a deep-sea anemone eating a small fish, as well as the “unusual occurrence” of a fish living inside a clear-glass bottle that landed intact on the ocean floor.
“Should we call this a Bottlefish?” NOAA asked in a tweet.