What Is A Sand Dollar?


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The animal is a relative of the sea urchin and the starfish. 'Sand dollar' can refer to the live animal or the skeleton it leaves behind, also called the 'test'. When alive, the sand dollar is covered in tiny spines, which help it to move along the seabed and ingest food. The sand dollar feeds on plankton and organic particles. It lives in sandy or muddy waters along coasts. There are many found near Maine and Florida.

Most often, the skeletons or tests are found, which usually appear as bleached discs, the shape of large coins. This explains how the sand dollar got its name. The enchanting thing about the shell is its symmetry. Depending on its type, the sand dollar will have a pattern, which may appear as a raised star, and several holes that are symmetrically placed. It is this decorative quality that makes the shell popular with collectors and for use as jewellery and home products.

Inside a sand dollar shell are five teeth, which are useful for scraping plankton from rocks. The teeth, which are found when the shell is broken open, are called 'doves' because they are tiny and white. The sand dollar is sometimes called the Holy Ghost shell because of the pure white appearance, the symmetry, the star pattern and the 'doves' which are found inside.

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