Seeing Red


Known as ha‘uke‘uke ‘ula‘ula in Hawaiian, the red slate pencil urchin is amongst the most visually stunning sea urchins in the Pacific. Vibrant red in color, they often reach up to 10-inches in diameter from spine to spine and are usually found lodged in the crevices of offshore reefs and in shallow shoreline tidepools. They remain in these underwater nooks and crannies throughout the day, emerging at night to graze on nearby algae. Just about the thickness of a pencil, the red slate pencil urchin contains spines that are blunt and harmless, unlike the painfully sharp needle-like spines of the more common black sea urchin. In old Hawaii, natives sometimes carved the spines decoratively. In the later days of slate chalkboards, the spines were also used to write on the boards in place of chalk. However, if you do spot one of Hawaii’s own red slate pencil urchins (the creature is native to our local waters) it’s best to look—but do not touch!

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