Sea urchin pigmentation is mainly due to polyhydroxy-1,4-naphthoquinones called spinochromes. If their molecular structures are well known in test and spines of many species, their abundance and distribution in other body compartments remain unstudied. The aim of this study is to analyse the pigment composition in four body compartments (test/spines, digestive system, gonads and coelomic fluid) of four coloured types of the sea urchin Echinometra mathaei. Qualitative and quantitative measurements by mass spectrometry highlight the existence of 13 different pigments; among which are five isomers of known spinochromes as well as three potentially new ones. The composition comparison shows the largest spinochrome diversity in ‘test/spines’ body compartments. The spinochrome concentrations vary from 48 to 1279 mg kg21 of dried body compartment. It is the highest in the digestive system, although it is also important in the organic fraction of the ‘test/spines’ body compartment. This observation may be explained by higher exposures of some body compartments to external environments and by the protective role fulfilled by spinochromes against microorganisms, ultraviolet radiation and reactive oxygen species. The ‘black’ type—the most common coloured type in coral reefs—has the highest concentration of spinochromes indicating their importance in Echinoids’ fitness by acting as a protective agent.
Brasseur, L., Demeyer, M., Decroo, C., Caulier, G., Flammang, P., Gerbaux, P., & Eeckhaut, I. (2018). Identification and quantification of spinochromes in body compartments of Echinometra mathaei’s coloured types. Royal Society Open Science, 5(8). https://doi.org/10.1098/rsos.171213