Loxechinus Albus - Biology

Biology

L. albus is mostly found on rocky coasts associated with the kelp Macrocystis pyrifera. It is more numerous in exposed locations. It is a herbivore and seems to feed on whatever species of alga grow nearby. Juveniles feed on crustose coralline algae, diatoms and algal detritus. In the Northern Hemisphere, some urchin species have large population swings and may create "barren ground" around them. In contrast, L. albus seems to be in balance with its food supply and does not seem to be limited by the quantity of algae available nor does the kelp growth become excessive. This may be partly because it also feeds on drifting algal fragments which are always abundant in kelp beds.

The spawning period varies along the Chilean coast. Spawning period occurs later in the year as latitude increases; at 23° S it occurs in June, at 45° S (Chiloé) it occurs in November-December. The populations inhabiting the Magellan Region ( 53° S) are an exception since their spawning period lasts from July to September.

The echinopluteus larvae form part of the zooplankton for about thirty days, feeding on phytoplankton. They settle in the rocky intertidal zone and undergo metamorphosis, living in cracks in the rocks as juveniles before migrating to the neritic zone where they mostly feed on drift algae and fronds of kelp.

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