« PreviousContinue »
THE SEA EGG
E doesn't look like an egg, I must admit, but far more like a chestnut burr all covered with prickles. But that is his common name, nevertheless. When he is boiled and his prickly spines drop.
off, leaving a white shell box, and people take a spoon to eat the contents of the shell, it does seem more appropriate as a name.
This little fellow is not a beauty, and by the side of some of the marvelous and exquisite creatures of the sea, he seems dull and uninteresting. Yet he is really one of the most wonderful creatures in the world. Every part of him is full of beautiful provisions for his peculiar life.
To begin at the outside, there are his spines of a delicate pea-green color, tipped with purple. Every one of these sharp objects is set upon his shell by a ball-and-socket joint, the most perfect joint known, and more than that, is under the direct command of the owner, so that he can raise or lower it at pleasure. To do this each spine requires several muscles, and as the common Sea Egg, or Sea Urchin, to give him his better name, has at least twelve hundred spines, you can imagine the great number of muscles needed in that small body.
But besides the twelve hundred prickly spines, the Sea Urchin has on his small body a great number of feet — little hollow sorts of tubes with suckers at the ends. Of these little organs he has about one thousand, so you see he has no trouble to get on in the world. His feet come through holes which are placed in rows all over his body, and he walks by turning over and over like a ball; sometimes his head — if he can be supposed to have a head - is up, and sometimes down. The suckers on his feet are like the wet leather
suckers with which you boys lift stones; and they work so well that he can walk up the glass sides of an aquarium.
Have you ever seen a picture of his shell, with his spines, feet and other things all off? The little knobs are the places on which the spines are fastened, and the holes are the places through which he sticks his feet. This shell was on the baby Urchin when he first began to roll around in the world, and was no bigger than a pea. The very same shell must serve him for a house when he is as big as an egg. Now how do you suppose this is done ?
It is one more of the wonders of the Sea Urchin. The shell is not one solid piece like an eggshell, as it looks; it is in several hundred pieces, fitted into each other with the most perfect exactness, so that you cannot see the joining. When the Urchin grows, he enlarges every piece alike, by taking lime from the sea water and adding on to the edges of the pieces. Is not that stranger than a fairy story?
The ways of the Sea Urchin are interesting, though it is only since he has been reduced to living in an aquarium that men have been able to study him much. I have spoken of his droll way of walking — rolling over and over, and of his making for himself a safe hole in a rock to live in; but some of them have still another way of living. They dig holes in the sand with their spines and throw it up violently as they root. Gradually sinking down, they use the spines on their backs to draw the sand over them, so as to hide them. But they have no idea of being buried alive, so they arrange a little hole through which they breathe and receive the sea water.
Sea Urchins are good to eat, as you could guess from their name of Sea Egg. They are caught in wooden pincers from shallow water, or even taken up in the hand if it has a glove on. They are eaten in several ways — raw, like oysters, or boiled, like eggs. Among the Greeks and Romans they were a favorite dish, served with wine and parsley.
When you are old enough, you must have an aquarium of your own and learn the odd ways of these little creatures.
THE LITTLE LAND
WHEN at home alone I sit
Through the grasses,
Hums and passes.
In that forest to and fro