A whole, pristine specimen is one of the ultimate treasures you can pluck from the sand. Even seasoned beachcombers don’t come across them too often. What could it be? Why, sand dollars of course! Sand dollars are always exciting to find in the tide, but there are certain things you should know about these unique treasures that will make beachcombing better for you and the sand dollars!
Most people don’t realize it, but sand dollars are live marine animals. As such, collecting a live sand dollar just isn’t OK. Taking home live marine animals threatens species. It just inhumane, it’s illegal in a lot of states, so it is a good idea to educate yourself and learn the difference between a live sand dollar and their shells, called “tests.”
A live sand dollar is usually found in the sand, under the waves, but they can occasionally wash ashore. Live sand dollars will be dark in color and feel soft to the touch, sort of like felt. On the other hand, a sand dollar test (the remains of left behind after a sand dollar dies) is a skeletal, hard shell that is light or white in color. If you find a sand dollar, Take the Test! You can collect the tests and take them home as Tybee Island souvenirs. But if the specimen you find is soft and dark please remember…it is a living marine animal. Replace it in the tide, or just admire it and keep on combing. Think about it- how would you feel if someone picked you up and stuffed you in a dark pocket?
If you visit Tybee Island, or any beach for that matter, and plan to do a little beach combing, please help us conserve our local sand dollar populations. For more information on Tybee Island, our ecosystems, and our wild life, please visit the Tybee Island Marine Science Center or check them out online! Helping sand dollars is simple really…if you find a sand dollar, just Take the Test!