Coelopleurus (Keraiophorus) exquisitus

Coelopleurus exquisitus is a recently discovered sea urchin species from New Caledonia in the Pacific. Coelopleurus exquisitus has a striking pattern colouration to both test and spines. Yet we simply have no idea what purpose such colouration serves, as this species lives only in deep water.

Coelopleurus exquisitus

Coelopleurus exquisitus

The pigmentation is distributed both in the skin and in the underlying skeleton, making this species highly prized by collectors and thus possibly under threat.

There is still much to be learned about the biology of sea urchins, especially those living below easy scuba-diving reach. We need to gather basic biological information about species like these in order to assess their conservation status.

Species detail

Tests up to 35 mm in diameter and with long, curved spines. The spines are banded red and pale green for most of their length.

Coelopleurus exquisitus

Coelopleurus exquisitus

The test has large, straight-edged, naked median zones in the upper part of its 5 interambulacra and these are purple in colour, in contrast to the test’s olive/light brown epithelium.  Each zone has a meandering pinkish to lavender undulating line running up it.

There are 12 species of Keraiophorus, each with its own distinct colour patterning.

Habitat

Soft substrates.

Distribution

Marine. Known only from around New Caledonia at depths of between 240m and 520m.

Biology

Nothing is known about the biology of this species, other than it is an epifaunal bottom dweller.

Images

Coelopleurus exquisitus

Coelopleurus exquisitus is known only from around New Caledonia.

Coelopleurus exquisitus

Coelopleurus exquisitus

Coelopleurus exquisitus

Coelopleurus exquisitus

About the author

A Smith
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Merit Researcher, Palaeontology Department.

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References

  • Coppard, S. E. & Schulz, H. A. G. 2006. A new species of Coelopleurus (Echinodermata: Echinoidea: Arbaciidae) from New Caledonia. Zootaxa. 1281: 1-9.