snorkeler holds an urchin in one hand and scissors in the other

A diver collects a long-spined sea urchin. Credit: Blake Gardner  

Our employee owners were recently part of a team of detectives on a mission to discover the killer of long-spined sea urchins, Diadema antillarumy, throughout the Caribbean Sea. The infected urchins lose their spines, leaving them more vulnerable to predation or dying after a few days. In 1983 the same species experienced mass mortality with identical symptoms, but scientists were unable to discover the culprit. Forty years later, the issue resurfaced, and a team of scientists joined forces to unlock the mystery.

CSS employee owners, supporting NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program and NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management, joined a team of scientists in diving to collect urchin samples at 23 sites around the Caribbean Sea. By providing the samples, the researchers were then able to examine and test the urchins and compare them to healthy urchins to determine the cause of the mortality. 

Due to this rapid response, scientists determined the cause of the issue within three months  

Our staff coauthored this paper documenting the process. https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/sciadv.adg3200

A long-spined urchin cut in half. Two gloved hands hold each half exposing the internal structure.

Researchers examine a long-spined sea urchin. Credit: Leslie Henderson

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