'Funny' sea objects identified as common sea urchins

Burrowing sea urchin Image copyright Paul Newland/Totnes Subaqua Club
Image caption The objects were identified as burrowing sea urchins, also known as sea potatoes

"Thousands" of "funny" baseball-like sea objects strewn across beaches in the South West have been identified as a common type of sea urchin.

Freelance photographer Mike Newman said he spotted "great numbers" of the pods when he was surfing on Long Rock beach in Cornwall.

The objects have reportedly baffled holidaymakers who were concerned they were poisonous.

But marine expert Prof Martin Attrill said they were harmless "sea potatoes".

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Image copyright Paul Newland/Totnes Subaqua Club
Image caption Prof Attrill said sea potatoes were harmless
Image copyright Nick Higgs/Plymouth University Marine Institute
Image caption Prof Attrill said the mass strandings may be related to recent storms

More formally known as burrowing sea urchins, Prof Attrill said they were about the size of a tennis ball and were usually covered with little spines.

Prof Attrill, from Plymouth University, said mass strandings of sea potatoes were "not unusual", particularly because they aggregated for breeding, meaning many could wash up together when caught out by a storm.

"There does seem to be a lot of them at the moment, but we have had a couple of pretty strong storms over the last week or two," he said.

Mr Newman said his children thought they were "fun to play with", and he had no concerns that they were poisonous.

"They are quite cute," Prof Attrill added.

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