Heart Urchins (Sea Potatoes) | Facts, Diet, Habitat & Pictures

Heart Urchins (Sea Potatoes) | Facts, Diet, Habitat & Pictures

Heart Urchins (Sea Potatoes) Overview


Heart urchins, also known as sea potatoes, display a unique and distinctive appearance in marine environments. They have a rounded, heart-shaped exoskeleton that is covered in a fine layer of spines. These spines radiate outward, giving them a spiky and textured appearance.

At one end, they feature a flattened surface with a mouth opening, which they use for burrowing into sandy or muddy seafloors. Heart urchins' eye-catching appearance adds intrigue to the diverse ecosystems they inhabit.

Origins And Evolution

Also known as sea potatoes, trace their evolutionary lineage back millions of years. Their ancestors likely emerged during the Paleozoic era, evolving from simpler echinoderm forms. Over time, they developed their distinctive heart-shaped exoskeletons, which provided protection and stability as they burrowed into sandy or muddy seafloors.

Sea potatoes are part of the class Echinoidea, closely related to sea urchins and sand dollars, showcasing their shared evolutionary history. Their unique adaptations and forms are a testament to their enduring presence in marine environments and their ability to thrive and diversify over geological time scales.

Behavior and Lifestyle

Sea potatoes have a specialized marine lifestyle characterized by burrowing into sandy or muddy seafloors. They use their flattened, heart-shaped bodies to dig deep tunnels, leaving only their upper surface exposed.

Within these burrows, they filter-feed on organic particles and detritus carried by water currents. They are primarily sedentary, with their movements limited to burrow construction and maintenance.

Scientific Classification

  • Kingdom: Animalia (Animals)
  • Phylum: Echinodermata (Echinoderms)
  • Class: Echinoidea (Sea urchins, heart urchins, and sand dollars)


  • Oceans
  • Seas
  • Coastal areas
  • Continental shelves
  • Sandy seafloors
  • Mud flats
  • Subtropical regions
  • Temperate regions
  • Tropical regions
  • Bays and estuaries

Fast Facts

  • Name: Heart urchins (Sea potatoes)
  • Scientific Name: Class Echinoidea
  • Habitat: Sandy seafloors, oceans
  • Diet: Detritus, organic particles
  • Physical Features: Heart-shaped exoskeleton
  • Nocturnal: Mostly sedentary creatures
  • Solitary: Typically solitary organisms
  • Unique Order: Echinoidea class
  • Lifespan: Several years to decades
  • Conservation Status: Not heavily threatened
  • Fun Facts: Burrowing specialists, and sediment recyclers, essential to coastal ecosystems

Physical Characteristics

  • Color: Varies, often earthy
  • Skin Type: Hard exoskeleton plates
  • Top Speed: Slow-moving marine organisms
  • Lifespan: Several years to decades
  • Weight: Weight varies considerably
  • Length: Typically 5-10 centimeters
  • Age of Sexual Maturity: Varies by species
  • Age of Weaning: Not applicable; direct development


Q: Where do heart urchins live?

Ans: They inhabit sandy or muddy seafloors in oceans and seas worldwide.

Q: How do heart urchins feed?

Ans: Urchins filter-feed on organic particles and detritus found in the water and sediments.

Q: Are heart urchins related to potatoes?

Ans:  No, their name sea potatoes comes from their shape and has no botanical relation to potatoes.

Q: Do heart urchins move?

Ans:  They are generally slow-moving and spend most of their time burrowing into the seafloor.

Q: Are heart urchins nocturnal?

Ans: Urchins are mostly active during the day but may become more active at night in some cases.


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