Coelopleurus L. Agassiz, 1840 is a genus of regular sea urchin in the family Arbaciidae Gray, 1855. Eleven Recent species, including several varieties/subspecies have been described (sensu Mortensen, 1935), all of which are found in the tropics at depths from 55 m to 2380 m (Mortensen, 1935). These sea urchins live on hard substrates feeding on encrusting organisms and have long protective spines to ward off predators. They also have large numbers of ophicephalous pedicellariae (small pincer-like appendages) to remove and disable fouling organisms that try to settle on the test (the urchin's "shell"). Species in this genus are typically brightly coloured, with large naked and highly patterned interambulacra. This has made them highly desirable to collectors.
In 2001 naked tests and disassociated primary spines of a brightly coloured species of Coelopleurus, reportedly collected from New Caledonia in the South Pacific, were offered for sale on the World Wide Web. These specimens were originally sold as C. interruptus and later sold as either C. maculatus or C. maillardi. By 2004 large numbers of specimens appeared for sale on eBay.com, all of which showed remarkable consistency in test and primary spine colouration. At this time, echinoderm specialist Simon Coppard was approached by collectors to identify the species. Coppard and his collaborator Heinke Schultz started out by examining the type material of all the known species in the genus. They quickly realized that they were dealing with a new undescribed species and their investigation revealed the presence of twenty-one unidentified specimens of a Coelopleurus collected from New Caledonia in the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Paris. These were collected during scientific benthic surveys off of New Caledonia in the mid 1980s by ORSTOM (with depth and collection data) and were identical to those being sold on the Web. Coppard and Schultz named this species Coelopleurus exquisitus after the exquisite coloured markings on the test and spines and published the species description, based on the material from the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Paris, in Zootaxa (Coppard and Shultz 2006). (Simon Coppard, in litt. June 2010)
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