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Legends of the Sand Dollar And Fascinating Facts

sand dollars

The legend of the sand dollar could have been told on Sanibel island. The reason is that Sanibel Island is a wonderful place to find Sand Dollars. No matter which beach you might choose, you have great chances to find them on every beach on our beautiful island. My personal favorite spot is the Northern end of Bowman’s Beach which is more remote and is a heaven for shell seekers.

To prepare you for your next treasure hunt, we gathered some fascinating facts and two popular legends surrounding this fascinating creature of the sea. Furthermore, we created a little guide how to best find sand dollars!

If you like the poem, copy the text at the end of our post and design a nice image on canva.com and create your first DIY sand dollar wall art decor picture. A sand dollar hanging on your wall will definitely add good luck and coastal charm to your beach home.

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Religious Legend of the Sand Dollar – Christian Symbolism

The Sand Dollar legend is an Easter and Christmas favorite story. The reason is that on the front of the sand dollar, you can find  five slits representing the wounds on Christ when on the cross and the Easter lily with a star in the middle representing the star of Bethlehem.  On the back is the outline of a Poinsettia. This is also called the Christmas flower. 

Some of the legends tell of 5 little doves, hidden inside the sand dollar. These are often difficult to find as you need to break open the sand dollar. In fact they are the 5 jaws of the sand dollar, joined together in a circle, which, when broken apart, become individual dove-shaped pieces. I have only seen a picture of this, but they are remarkably like little birds.

Non-Religious Legend of the Sand Dollar

According to wikipedia, the “dead sand dollars are sometimes said to represent coins lost by mermaids or the people of Atlantis.” Indeed, sand dollars look a lot like silver coins and therefore have a high value in the myths.

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How to Find Sand Dollars

It is always good to be prepared before going hunting – no matter if you are looking for shells in general or sand dollars in particular. Here is a little guide on how to best find sand dollars in Florida.

Bring a Bucket and Even Gloves

Sand dollars produce echinochrome, a harmless substance that stains your fingers yellow. This is why you want to bring a bucket to wash off and store your sand dollars. If you are mindful about your hands, pack some gloves as well.

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Check the Weather Forecast

The best time to find sand dollars is right after a storm. The reason is that the high waves push the sand dollars onto the beach. Especially during summer there are many storms in Florida and beaches tend to be emptier than during the busy spring season.

Get Out at Low Tides

 Mornings during low tides are the best time to search for sand dollars. The reason is that not all sand dollars will be able to return to the gulf after being pushed on the shore. Furthermore, water is more choppy during high tides and as a result, shelling is much harder. 

Sand Dollar Watching

Sand dollars like to hide under the sand and under piles of shells. This is why you can try to shuffle the sand with your feet. During summer, there are many stingrays in the gulf. This is why you want to be careful when shuffling in the low tide water. Also keep in mind that there might be strong currents. 

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Fascinating Sand Dollar Facts

Sand dollars are closely related to starfish, sea lilies, sea cucumbers and sea urchins.

When found “alive” on the beach, a Sand Dollar is dark purplish in color. It is covered by many tiny hairs to help it move across the sea floor. When they die, the hairs and any attached organic materials rot away leaving the “test”, which is the skeleton.

The skeleton is made of calcium carbonate, and it’s the calcium that reflects as white.

11 Things You (Might Not) Know About Sand Dollars

1. SAND DOLLARS ARE  SPECIES OF FLAT, BURROWING SEA URCHINS.

“Sea urchins are spiny, globular echinoderms in the class Echinoidea. About 950 species of sea urchin live on the seabed of every ocean and inhabit every depth zone.”

2. WHEN THE SAND DOLLAR IS ALIVE IT IS DARK

Living sand dollars are covered by a skin of velvet-textured spines which are covered with very small hairs. The hair makes them look dark. Please note: on many beaches taking dark colored Sand Dollars is forbidden. The reason is to protect nature. Thus please only take home the white sand dollars as souvenirs.

3. THEY EAT WITH THEIR HAIR

“In their sandy seafloor habitat, sand dollars use their fuzzy spines, aided by tiny hairs (cilia), to ferry food particles along their bodies to a central mouth on their bottom side,” according to the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

“They capture plankton with spines and pincers (pedicellariae) on their body surfaces. A tiny teepee-shaped cone of spines bunched up on a sand dollar’s body marks a spot where captive amphipods or crab larvae are being held for transport to the mouth.”

4. THE SUN BLEACHES THE SAND DOLLAR 

When the sand dollars wash up on the beach, after floating in a low tide and washed by the rolling sand and are exposed to the sun they are bleached white .As a result, they look like a large silver coin.

5. SAND DOLLARS ARE ALSO KNOWN AS A SEA COOKIE OR SNAPPER BISCUIT.

In New Zealand the sand dollar is known under the name sea cookie or snapper biscuit. In South Africa people call it a pansy shell.

6. SAND DOLLARS ARE NOT POISONOUS TO HUMANS

While sand dollars can emit a harmless yellow material called echinochrome. But the sand dollars are absolutely not poisonous. This means you can touch them without fear whether they are alive or dead.

7. HOW DO SAND DOLLARS DIE?

The sand dollars are alive when they wash in during high tides and become stranded. Unfortunately, not all of them are unable to make it back to the water once the tide recedes. As a result, the sand dollars are drying up and dying.

8. HOW TO TELL THE AGE OF A SAND DOLLAR

You might be surprised to learn that telling the age of a sand dollar is pretty simple. Believe it or not, finding the age of a sand dollar is just like determining the age of a tree. Simply,  count the growth by counting the rings on the underside of the sand dollar’s exoskeleton. As a rule of thumb, sand dollars live approximately 6 to 10 years old.

9. CLEANING SAND DOLLARS

The best way to clean sand dollars is to wash and soak them in a solution of water and bleach. Mix equal parts bleach and water and let them soak for at least 10 minutes before rinsing them. Next, spread them on an old rug outside and let the sun take care of the rest.

10. HOW TO BEST PRESERVE SAND DOLLARS

To enjoy your sand dollars for many years, mix together white glue and water in equal portions. Then, take a sponge brush to cover the entire sand dollar. The next step is to place them on some wax paper to dry.  

11. WHAT IS INSIDE A SAND DOLLAR

Some people believe that the inside of sand dollars are treasures. But reality is that the inside of a sand dollar contains a burrowing sea urchin. The inside is revealed when the sand dollar dies and the shell and the sea urchin are separated. The only surprise is that the sand dollar has five jaw sections, 50 skeletal bone parts and at least 60 muscles!

For more information on sand dollars on Sanibel Island check this story!

The Legend of the Sand Dollar – Poem

This legend of the sand dollar is best printable if you just mark it or copy it into a nice design on canva.com

There’s a pretty little legend

That I would like to tell

Of the birth and death of Jesus

Found in this lowly shell.

If you examine closely,

You’ll see that you find here

Four nail holes and a fifth one

Made by a Roman’s spear.

On one side the Easter lily,

Its center is the star

That appeared unto the shepherds

And led them from afar.

The Christmas poinsettia,

Etched on the other side

Reminds us of His birthday,

Our happy Christmastide.

Now break the center open,

And here you will release

The five white doves awaiting

To spread Good will and peace.

This simple little symbol,

Christ left for you and me

To help us spread His Gospel

Through all eternity.

A Word from healthylifestyleflorida.com

Do you believe the legend of the sand dollar? Even if you don`t, finding a sand dollar is a moment of joy and success. And walking along the gulf is a great way of exercising and a contribution to your healthy lifestyle. Their beauty will add some coastal charm to every beach home. 

Antje Diana Baumgarten

Antje Diana Baumgarten

I believe that the things we do and the products we use determine our lifestyle. Whether your ultimate goal is to optimize your health, fitness or well-being. I introduce you to content that has the true potential to make a significant difference to how we live, love, perform, learn, look, exercise, travel, relax, sleep, work and more.

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