Covering behavior in sea urchins is an important aspect of many species’ ecology and has a variety of perceived benefits including food source, mechanical defense, shielding from sunlight, and predator protection. The goal of this study was to determine whether an urchin genus’s main benefit from this form of crypsis is correlated with either phylogenetic relationships or environmental factors (ocean depth and climate). To evaluate this hypothesis, a literature review was conducted on 15 urchin genera that use the covering reaction. The function of this behavior for the aforementioned genera was both mapped onto a phylogeny and evaluated, based on the climate and depth of the genera’s habitats to determine whether the patterns exist. The results suggest that phylogenetic relationships provide a more functional predictive tool for determining the purpose of covering in an urchin genus than its environment. This conclusion is useful for understanding the biology of sea urchins as well as how the covering reaction relates to the many other cryptic behaviors used by animal species.
Part of the book: Sea Urchin