Kina, Evechinus chloroticu

Evechinus chloroticu, commonly known as kina in the Māori language, is a sea urchin that can be found in New Zealand waters. It resides at depths between 39.3 and 45.9 feet in areas with moderate wave patterns. In northern waters of its range, it is typically found in rocky areas but can be found in sandy areas. In southern waters, it prefers to live in fjords.

Evechinus chloroticu can reach an average diameter of up to 6.6 inches. It feeds on plant materials like red algae, large brown algae, and sediment. If localized populations are too large, kelp beds can become completely bare. These areas are known as kina barrens. This species can become prey to many species including some mollusks like cymatiid gastropods, fish that can be found on the sea floor, and starfish. Its main predators include the spiny lobster, the eleven-armed sea star, and the seven-armed sea star.

The spawning season for Evechinus chloroticu occurs between the months of November and February. Males and females will release their sperm and eggs at the same time into the water column, ensuring that fertilization of eggs is successful. The larvae within the column become large enough to float to the sea floor by six weeks of age, although lab studies of this species show this occurring at thirty days of age. This species can grow to be .3 inches in its first year.

Sea urchins are a large source of income in Europe and Asian areas and are used in local cuisine. In the New Zealand market, the gonads and eggs of Evechinus chloroticu, known as roe, can sell for NZ$70 per 2.2 pounds. However, this species is not sold well in outside markets, due to its bitter taste. Despite this, many studies have been conducted regarding the life and the farming this species in order to harvest its roe. Through the studies, it has been found that roe enhancement could be a viable option in selling the roe in foreign markets. Typically, Evechinus chloroticu reaches sexual maturity when it is between 1.3 and 2.9 inches in diameter. However, if properly fed in a lab, this species can reach maturity at only 1.1 inches, showing great promise in roe enhancement in lab-grown individuals. More studies are needed before lab induced roe enhancement can be perfected.

Image Caption: New Zealand sea urchin (or kina in the Māori language), Evechinus chloroticus. Credit: Zureks/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)