It’s thrilling to see a live SAND DOLLAR at low tide half buried in the sand and water, isn’t it?
It’s also thrilling to see bleached out SAND DOLLARS washing in with the tide as well, right?
But how do you know if a SAND DOLLAR is alive or not when it is isn’t bright white?
If a SAND DOLLAR is dark in color and half buried in the sand and/or water, it is most likely still alive and we should let it stay in its place in the water.
There have been times I have posted photos of SAND DOLLARS in my bucket that were grey in color. This has been a concern to folks who were worried about whether or not I collected live SAND DOLLARS. First of all, I would never collect a live SAND DOLLAR. But I completely understand the concerns from anyone who wants to make sure nobody takes a living creature out of its habitat – especially just to take it home for a souvenir.
So here’s the way to tell if it’s alive or not… Look for the CILIA and velvety skin. These are the things that keep the animal alive and on these SAND DOLLARS… they are missing so they are not alive any more. These are now just the TESTS of the animal… like the shell (although its not technically a shell).
Do you see how the edge and surface of this SAND DOLLAR looks like it has fur?
SAND DOLLARS have short SPINES covered in CILIA (tiny hairs) so it can move along the sand and grasses. Along with those “hairs” are TUBE FEET (which look like “fur” to me too – heehee) which is actually how the SAND DOLLAR breathes.
I bet now, you can look at this next photo and see that all of these baby SAND DOLLARS in Clark’s hand are alive. After I snapped this photo, he put them back in the water.
You can see it here too, right? These need to go back into the water where they belong.
So now take a look at this next photo…. is this still alive? No. Even though this SAND DOLLAR is still gray in color, there’s no possible way it could be alive since there are no SPINES nor CILIA nor TUBE FEET. It has no way to breathe or move without those things.
Julianna shows us that the SAND DOLLAR to the left of the photo is still alive and the other one on the right side of the photo has no “fur” whatsoever. She is a good steward of the earth so she put the live one safely back in the water and she gave the other “hairless” one to her mom for safekeeping.
Most days you will see sun bleached SAND DOLLARS just like this…. Hairless! Furless! Completely “Bald”! haha
So next time you see a SAND DOLLAR while walking the beach, remember to leave it alone if it’s dark and hairy but if you are unsure if it’s alive… take your time to inspect this amazing creature before you assume it’s a “keeper”. Look for any signs of hairs, fur or velvety skin.
Now you can bet your bottom DOLLAR you’ll know when to leave those sweet living SAND DOLLARS alone…
and when you can jump for joy when you find that keeper almighty DOLLAR.
Oh, and I took a short video of a cutie little juvie LIVE SAND DOLLAR to show you how they move those little hairs around. I hope this helps!
PS- Most of these photos are from articles I’ve published in the past, just click on each photo to be linked to those posts.