Purple heart urchin (Spatangus purpureus)

Distribution data supplied by the Ocean Biodiversity Information System (OBIS). To interrogate UK data visit the NBN Atlas.Map Help



A large, spectacular, violet coloured heart urchin that grows up to 12 cm long. Some of the long upper spines are white. The bivalve mollusc Montacuta substriata is often found attached to spines.

Recorded distribution in Britain and Ireland

All British and Irish coasts

Global distribution



Occurs buried just below the surface of coarse sand or gravel, including maerl but rarely mud, in wave sheltered areas in the infralittoral fringe, down to about 900 m.

Depth range


Identifying features

  • Broad, low and heart-shaped, deep violet colour.
  • Labrum rounded.
  • Subanal fasciole about three times as broad as high.
  • Four petaloid ambulacral areas on upper surface not enclosed by a fasciole.
  • Large spine tubercles present on interambulacral, but not on ambulacral, areas.

Additional information

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Listed by

- none -


  1. Hayward, P., Nelson-Smith, T. & Shields, C. 1996. Collins pocket guide. Sea shore of Britain and northern Europe. London: HarperCollins.

  2. Hayward, P.J. & Ryland, J.S. (ed.) 1995b. Handbook of the marine fauna of North-West Europe. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  3. Howson, C.M. & Picton, B.E., 1997. The species directory of the marine fauna and flora of the British Isles and surrounding seas. Belfast: Ulster Museum. [Ulster Museum publication, no. 276.]


  1. Cofnod – North Wales Environmental Information Service, 2018. Miscellaneous records held on the Cofnod database. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/hcgqsi accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-09-25.

  2. Manx Biological Recording Partnership, 2018. Isle of Man historical wildlife records 1990 to 1994. Occurrence dataset:https://doi.org/10.15468/aru16v accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-01.

  3. NBN (National Biodiversity Network) Atlas. Available from: https://www.nbnatlas.org.

  4. OBIS (Ocean Biodiversity Information System),  2024. Global map of species distribution using gridded data. Available from: Ocean Biogeographic Information System. www.iobis.org. Accessed: 2024-06-16


This review can be cited as:

Wilson, E. 2002. Spatangus purpureus Purple heart urchin. In Tyler-Walters H. and Hiscock K. Marine Life Information Network: Biology and Sensitivity Key Information Reviews, [on-line]. Plymouth: Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. [cited 16-06-2024]. Available from: https://www.marlin.ac.uk/species/detail/1191

Last Updated: 27/09/2002