A sea usk has been caught alive by humans in the Northern Territory, according to a study published in the journal Marine Biology Progress.
The study found that while sea ursids are highly adaptable to living on land, they can survive for weeks on land in a saltwater environment.
Sea urchins can live for up to two years in a saline water environment, according the researchers.
The research was led by Dr Paul McLean from the University of New South Wales, who led the research.
“I’m quite happy that the animal we have caught is able to survive the saltwater conditions we’ve found,” Dr McLean told ABC Radio National.
The urchinal species is called the red-eye sea uscum and can grow up to 30 centimetres in length.
It can be found in the southern half of the Great Barrier Reef off the Northern Queensland coast and the Northern Cape.
It is one of the fastest-growing vertebrates on earth and is capable of reproducing in the womb for up of 12 years.
Scientists said it is not uncommon for red-eyed sea uruses to grow up around the world.
Dr McLean said the urchindids’ ability to survive in the sea was not unusual because they can live in large numbers, and the animals could be able to establish colonies that would be able be colonised by humans.
He said the animal could also use its size to hide and make itself hard to find, which is one reason why it is often confused with urchined corals.
Sea urchinis are often referred to as red-eyes due to the reddish colouration of the skin, he said.
Mr McLean and his team are now hoping to find out if the ursid can survive in a seawater environment and feed on plankton, or on marine organisms.
Professor Greg Leech from the NT University of Technology, who was not involved in the study, said it was an exciting opportunity to study urchine life on land.
“[The ursidae] has adapted to living in freshwater and saltwater environments and that has been a very good thing,” he said, adding that scientists were hopeful the urna species would also survive.
However, he warned that the urbans could be vulnerable to disease.
“(The urbas) are not a particularly hardy species and they could be susceptible to disease in the wild,” Professor Leech said.