If you’ve ever been at the beach, one thing you want to avoid stepping on is a sea urchin. Their spines are long, sharp and often carry toxins that can be extremely painful and even fatal. They can cause one to possibly lose their foot or leg.
I’ve seen videos of sea urchins walking across the ocean floor and found it amazing that they are able to move their spines in a concert of motion. Yet if you have ever had the chance to hold one in your hands, the spines seem rigid and immovable. As rigid as they seem, the spines also serve as shock absorbers as they help to protect the animal from impacts with other objects, such as when they get tossed about by strong wave, current or tide.
Even more amazing is how the sea urchin avoids becoming encrusted with algae, as they are not the fastest of creatures. If you look closely at one while it’s in the water, you will see a number of small projections that look like tiny arms. At the tips of these arms are a pair of pincher like projections. These arms with their pinchers constantly scour the surface of the urchin along with the spines, removing any algae growing on them thus serving as a self-cleaning mechanism.
New research has revealed even more unique and amazing facts about sea urchins that truly defy evolutionary explanation. A team of scientists from the University of Konstanz in Germany have been studying the structure of the sea urchin spines and were amazed at what they discovered. Led by Helmut Coelfin, the team used standard light microscopes, then electron microscopes and then moved on to using x-ray crystallography.
The basic composition of sea urchin shells and spines is calcium carbonate, a common compound used by many marine organisms to form their protective shells and coverings. Calcium carbonate is extremely versatile and can form in many ways.
At first it was believed that the sea urchin spines were composed of a crystalline form of calcium carbonate, but if that was the case, the spines should be relatively brittle and easily broken off. Under the intense scrutiny of the team of researchers, they saw a very unique construction of bricks and mortar that made up the spines.
Ninety-two percent of the spine consisted of brick-like structures that were made up of calcite crystals. The remaining eight percent was a calcium carbonate mortar that held the brickwork together.
By viewing the structure at different levels of magnification, the team was better able to understand the complete design structure of the spines and what made them so strong and resilient. They are now working with two international companies in trying to copy the structure of the sea urchin spine and use that to produce stronger concrete that is also more resilient to fracturing. It may be possible to use the information learned to produce buildings that will be more able to withstand earthquakes.
So once again we see science marveling at a uniquely ordered design in nature and then attempt to repeat it and put it into practical use. They are now spending many hours and dollars on research in an attempt to duplicate something they believe arose by random chance without any intelligence behind it.
So the next time you’re at the beach and you happen to come across a sea urchin, take a moment to marvel at the unique design God used when He created them on Day 5 of Creation. Oh, what a marvelous Creator God we have and how infinite is His wisdom and being.
Palmer, Jason. Sea Urchin Spine Structure Inspires Idea for Concrete, BBC Science & Environment, Feb 14, 2012.
Structure Of Tough Sea Urchin Spines May Inspire Engineers, Red Orbit, Feb 16, 2012.
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