Sand Dollars

Sand Dollars

Sand dollars are fascinating creatures commonly found along the coasts, including the beaches of Florida. They are a type of sea urchin belonging to the order Clypeasteroida and are known for their distinctive flat, round shape, which resembles a large coin, such as the old Spanish dollar, hence their name. Here are some key points about sand dollars, particularly as they relate to Florida:

Habitat and Distribution

  • Sand dollars are found in the sandy or muddy bottom areas of the ocean floor, from the intertidal zone to considerable depths.
  • In Florida, they can be found along both the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic coasts, thriving in warm, shallow waters.

Physical Characteristics

  • Living sand dollars are covered in tiny, velvety spines that are used for locomotion and for burrowing into the sand.
  • When alive, they are usually a dark color, like green, blue, or purple, but when they die and their skeletons (called “tests”) are bleached by the sun, they turn white.

Ecology and Behavior

  • They feed on microscopic algae, detritus, and tiny organisms in the water, which they capture with their spines and move to their mouth located in the center of their underside.
  • They play a significant role in the ecosystem by recycling nutrients and helping to aerate the ocean floor.


  • Sand dollars, like many marine species, can be affected by pollution, habitat destruction, and climate change. Conservation efforts are essential to protect their populations and the overall health of marine ecosystems.

Educational and Recreational Interest

  • They are a subject of interest for both scientific study and recreation, such as beachcombing and educational projects. Their unique design and patterns have also made them a popular item in arts and crafts.

We often find sand dollars during our kayak tours of Emerson Point Preserve. Book your kayak adventure online at