Friday, December 21, 2012

Who... or what, exactly, is Squirt in Olivia Brophie and the Pearl of Tagelus

"Just exactly WHAT is Squirt?"

That is the most asked question I get from young readers of Olivia Brophie and the Pearl of Tagelus. That is usually followed by "I want him."

They know he only makes a single noise (Squeak!) They know he voraciously eats any food that he crawls over. He has a particular fondness for candy and snacks.

Many have tried to draw him:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 



I love this version



Well, for the first time on the internet, here is the real Squirt:



Squirt is an echinoid. This picture is exactly what he and the thousands of other echinoids in Olivia Brophie look like. He is a kind of sea urchin, related to the sea biscuits and sand dollars.

If you read the book carefully, you know Squirt's mouth is on his bottom. Here is a picture of Squirt's mouth:



Now, for the best part. You can find your very own Squirt in Florida! You just have to be a bit adventerous. Fossilized echinoids can be found in springs and spring runs in Florida. You need a snorkel and mask. You need some patience as you scan the river bottoms for echinoids. Some days you might not find anything. Some days, you might also find other fossils such as shark's teeth, alligator teeth, armadillo scales, and manatee teeth.  I have a big collection of fossils I've found in Florida springs. One day, I'll post them so you can see. But Squirt is my favorite. That is why I made him into a character in Olivia Brophie.

Fossils exist in Florida because the entire state is built upon a huge platform of limestone. Limestone grows on the ocean floor, the result of countless shells and creatures who died in the past and were pressed together by pressure. Some of the shells weren't crushed. Teeth were too strong to be crushed too, that's why you can find lots of sharks teeth in Florida.

And yes, Squirt will be in Book #2. In fact, he travels farther than any echinoid in the history of the world in Book #2.  He even saves Olivia!

Here he is on a copy of the book so you can see how big he is:




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