NC Aquarium Provides Sea Urchins Dental Checkups

Kids aren’t the only ones visiting the pencil sea urchins at the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island. The aquarium’s veterinary team recently stopped by to give the sea urchins a dental checkup.

Sea urchins have a unique jaw apparatus called Aristotle’s lantern, which includes five teeth that continually grow throughout the animal’s life and can sometimes be venomous.

Urchins who live in the wild trim their teeth by scraping food from rocks and reefs, but the urchins at the North Carolina Aquarium have to find other ways to dull them, like using a dremmel.

Veterinarian Dr. Emily Christiansen used a drimmel to trim, reshape and even out the invertebrates’ teeth, and took x-rays before and after the procedures to track their dental work.

Without rocks, reefs, or in this case, regular dental visits, the urchins may not be able to eat properly.

The North Carolina Aquarium  is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

According to its site, the aquarium is dedicated to the mission of inspiring the appreciation and conservation of North Carolina’s aquatic environments.

They offer a variety of educational programs for visitors.

Close-up of pencil sea urchin teeth. (Photo courtesy NC Aquarium on Roanoke Island)

Children can touch the urchins and other sea creatures in a touch tank, or participate in the Junior Aquarist Day Campwhere kids can help to make sure the animals are eating healthy.

They can design treats for the river otters, make veggie meals for the box turtles and prepare food for the shark tank.

The aquarium is open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., except Thanksgiving and Christmas. Tickets start at $10.95.

For more information about the aquarium and its programs, visit

Also, check out the aquarium’s daily schedule for a list of activities.