Wild Fact #496 – We’re Rich! – Sand Dollar

Sand Dollar

Photo by Gerhard H (Wikimedia)

The final Wild Fact of the week is going to be all about the money! In fact, you may even have childhood memories walking along the beach pocketing a dollar at a time. Of course, I am talking about the amazing Sand Dollars, which are cool to look at but probably not worth very much. In order to collect a few dollars we will need to put on our swim trunks and play around in the shallow water along the beach. I know, it sounds like a tough way to spend the Friday but it will be worth it, I promise. Oh and don’t forget your surf board!

So what in the world is a Sand Dollar? That is easy, they are flattened, burrowing echinoids. What do you mean that doesn’t clear anything up? What if I told you they were closely related to Sea Urchins, Starfish and Sea Cucumbers, would that paint a better picture than saying “echinoids”? Like other individuals in their family the Sand Dollar tends to have a petal-like pattern consisting of fiver paired rows of pores. These handy, little pores are responsible for a very important life function, gas exchange. If you are looking for the mouth of this creature then you need to look at the bottom of the Sand Dollar and right in the middle of the petal. Wait a minute! They have a mouth? What could a slow moving Sand Dollar possibly eat?

Sand Dollar

Photo by Gerhard H (Wikimedia)

Believe it or not the Sand Dollar tends to feast on medium to large size fish, mainly Dogfish Sharks. Okay, maybe I was just seeing if you were paying attention. They actually feed on the larvae of crustaceans, zooplankton, algae and of course the ever wonderful tasting detritus. Not only can these collector items eat food but they can also dig into the beach. In fact, most of them do! They have tiny spines on their underside which allows them to burrow into the substrate. I guess this would be a good place to go if you like eating detritus!

Sand Dollar Fast Fact – Although you probably remember finding Sand Dollars along the dry portion of the beach, they actually need shallow water to survive. It is only after they die that they get washed up on shore where the eager collector is waiting to snatch up another dollar.

One more week is in the books as we continue counting down to zero. Enjoy your weekend and I will see you on Monday. Oh and don’t spend all of your Sand Dollars in one place this weekend.

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