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Friday
Oct272006

The tragedy of the sea urchin

I finished Mary Roach's Spook in a whirlwind read yesterday while home sick from work, and learned that it's not just about the afterlife...

There's a good chance you underestimate almost everything about the sea urchin. For instance, the Encyclopedia Britannica tells us some sea urchins use their little sucker-tipped feet to hold pieces of seaweed over their heads like parasols, for shade. Plus, they have teeth that can drill into rock and excavate entire living rooms for their owners. The teeth are hard to see, because sea urchins sit on their mouths; possibly they are self-conscious about their "complex dental apparatus called Aristotle's lantern." One type has spines that can be used as pencils, though not, disappointingly, by the urchin itself.

I love the images produced in this simple aside (and goodness knows Mary Roach loves her asides): the self-conscious echinoderm, melancholy for his inability to use his own nature-provided writing utensil to transcribe his violent memoirs.

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