The Milford Marine Institute has been finding purple sea urchins along the area coastline this winter, especially in rocky coastal areas, said director Tim Chaucer.

Sea urchins are not rare sea creatures, but they don't usually wash up on shore. Chaucer said the best time to find them is after a huge coastal storm.

“You might be lucky to find a specimen intact with the five white toothlike plates on the underside called ‘Aristotle’s Lantern,’” Chaucer said, suggesting that parents with an eye for nature hunts look for them after storms — including after this weekend’s storm — and have their children place them in a jar with a label as part of their own personal museum specimens.

According to the Tree of Life Web Project (tolweb.org), “Sea urchins are sea creatures that live in oceans all over the world. Similar to sea stars, sea urchins have a water vascular system.”

They are typically small and their bodies are covered with a spiny shell, the site states, adding that the spines are movable and help the sea urchin to camouflage and protect itself from predators. Sea urchins come in different colors, including black, red, brown, purple and light pink.

“On the bottom side of a sea urchin there are five teeth that these organisms use to ingest algae and break down other foods they consume to survive,” according to Tree of Life. “These five teeth continually grow throughout the sea urchin’s life. On the outside of their body, they also have hundreds of transparent tubes that emerge which allow them to stick to the bottom of the ocean or to move at a very slow pace.”

The Milford Marine Marine Institute has been in Milford since 1983, offering environmental studies related to Milford’s coastal and riverine environment.

The institute, located along Gulf Pond, offers programs and classes that include bird identification, marine biology and archeology.

For further information call the institute at 203-874-4000 or go to milfordmarineinstitute.org.