It's not just for aesthetic reasons that some sea urchins have been photographed wearing such fashion accessories, it's science. Well, sort of.
It's believed that one of the possible reasons sea urchins create their own mini hats using shells and rocks is for protection. When an aquarium enthusiast in the U.S. Wilson Souza figured this out, he started making mini bespoke 3D-printed hats for them, Newsweek reported.
and here's a bonus witchy version pic.twitter.com/S3gNFFMban— Living Morganism 🌱 (@ok_girlfriend) November 23, 2020
Viking helmets, top hats, cowboy Stetson hats, and even witch hats have been created for these sea urchins by Souza, and images of them have been going crazy on social media.
These functional hats have turned Souza into a sea creature fashion designer, of sorts.
These dexterous little echinoderms, the family under which sea urchins fall, coordinate their hundreds of little feet tubes to shift makeshift hats — shells, rocks, and other objects — atop their spines.
So why not make them stylish?
I was today years old when I learned that sea urchins naturally use shells as hats to make them feel safer and camouflaged so some aquarists had the genius idea to make them tiny hats pic.twitter.com/z8IcJx7fBI— Living Morganism 🌱 (@ok_girlfriend) November 22, 2020
Posting images of his behatted urchins on saltwater aquarium forum, Reef2Reef, turned Souza into an overnight sensation. Loads of fellow sea urchin fans commented with glee, pouring compliments onto the forum, and brainstorming other potential hat options for their little sea animal friends.
As he was receiving such praise, Souza decided to 3D-print hats, and mailed them out "for the pleasure of having other people enjoy the experience too," he told Newsweek.
Initially, Souza was captivated by his sea urchins' behavior, "I noticed at night they would let go of some of the stuff they carried during the day," Souza said to Newsweek.
"I started wondering if it has anything to do with the full spectrum lights that we use for corals. I shared it with my wife Sylvia, who said, 'Well, if they are trying to protect themselves from the UV rays, then why don't you design and 3D print some hats for the poor little things?'"
So, in fact, we have Souza's wife to thank for these fun and useful accessories.
It's not quite as simple as just covering themselves from UV rays, explained Emma Verling, a post-doctoral researcher at MaREI, the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre for Energy, Climate and Marine.
It's "multifactoral," she said to Newsweek.
With roughly 950 species of sea urchins donning our seabeds, it's easy to see how their habits may not be so simple to explain, reported Bored Panda.
In any case, these little behatted sea urchins make for a pretty sight, and if anything, it's lovely entertainment.