PHANG NGA (NNT) - Helmet urchins have been found around the Similan Islands for the first time in history, signaling to officials that the area’s ecology has changed considerably.
The Chief of Mu Ko Similan National Park, Ruamsin Manajongprasert, said that the Forestry Specialist, Pensri Pipat, found the rare creatures during a patrol of Koh Ngu, also known as Koh Kao, in Phang Nga province. She reported finding 50 of the creatures that have never before been seen in the area. The sighting has encouraged officials monitoring the ecological health of the park, and prompted a study.
The scientific name of the Helmet urchin is Colobocentrotus atratus. It is is distinct from other sea urchins due to its smooth tile-like shell and lack of quills.
Research has found the animals can resist waves moving between 17.5 and 27.5 meters per second. They are commonly found among shoreline rocks in the Indo-Pacific region and in Hawaii. The first sighting in Thailand was by Dr. Somchai Busarawich in 1987; more recently they were seen by Dr. Sumer Puchakarn of Burapha University’s Marine Science Institute, in 2004.