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Long Beach Island Sand Dollars
If you have been a visitor to Long Beach Island in years past, you know the types of shells, plant life and wildlife that frequent our ocean waters and beaches. You also know that sand dollars are not something we normally see on our shores. This summer, there are thousands of these beautiful creatures washing up on our beaches. Is it simply due to changes in our waters caused by Mother Nature or is the recent Army Corps of Engineers' Beach Replenishment Project to blame? I am not sure, but what I do know is that sand dollars are normally white when found on shores, as these creatures are no longer alive. The sand dollars we are finding in abundance on Long Beach Island are oft times purple. Sand dollars are extremely flattened, burrowing sea urchins. A live sand dollar has densely packed, tiny, dark purple spines; they feel almost fuzzy. Sand dollars use these spines and tiny hairs to move food particles from the ocean floor to a mouth centrally located on their bottom side. They capture plankton, amphipods or crab larvae. They also use these spines to move along the ocean floor. On their upper side, there spines act as gills as well. Sand dollars typically will stand upright in the sand; however, when waters are rough they lay flat and burrow under the sand. Young sand dollars will swallow sand to weigh themselves down. Sand dollars usually crowd together, so it is not uncommon to find thousands in one spot. One square yard can hold as many as 625 sand dollars. These beautiful creatures live for 6-10 years. So when you're walking along the beaches of Long Beach Island this summer, and you see these beauties in the water or along the shore, before you decide to take them home, be certain they are not live creatures you are parting with their ocean home.