sand dollar

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sand dollar,

common name for a marine animal in the same phylum as the starfish (see sea starsea star,
also called starfish, echinoderm of the class Asteroidae, common in tide pools. Sea stars vary in size from under 1-2 in. (1.3 cm) to over 3 ft (90 cm) in diameter. They are commonly dull shades of yellow or orange, but there are many brightly colored ones as well.
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). The sand dollar has a rigid, flattened, disk-shaped test, or shell, made of firmly united plates lying just beneath the thin skin. Small spines that densely cover the test enable the animal to burrow in sand just below the surface. Like other members of its class, the sand dollar is radially symmetrical. It also shows evidence of a secondary bilateral symmetry, i.e., the mouth is centered on the oral (under) surface, but the anus lies near the rear edge of the test. Tube feet are similar to those in other echinoderms and are used for locomotion and to convey small food particles, mostly organic matter found in sand, to the mouth. Tube feet on the upper surface are used for respiration. Sand dollars differ from the closely related heart urchins by their shorter spines and more flattened shape. More convex, short-spined sand dollars are called sea biscuits. Sand dollars are abundant on the sandy bottom of deeper waters on both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. They are classified in the phylum EchinodermataEchinodermata
[Gr.,=spiny skin], phylum of exclusively marine bottom-dwelling invertebrates having external skeletons of calcareous plates just beneath the skin. The plates may be solidly fused together, as in sea urchins, loosely articulated to facilitate movement, as in sea
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, class Echinoidea, order Clypeastroida.

Sand Dollar

Holy Ghost Shell

Some people consider the sand dollar a natural symbol of the birth and death of Jesus Christ. For this reason it acquired the folk name Holy Ghost Shell. A little poem by an anonymous author, entitled "Legend of the Sand Dollar," explains this symbolism:

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 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.

Further Reading

Lord, Priscilla Sawyer, and Daniel J. Foley. Easter Garland. 1963. Reprint. Detroit, MI: Omnigraphics, 1999.

Web Site

Many versions of this poem can be found online. The one reprinted above comes from:

sand dollar

[′san ‚däl·ər]
(invertebrate zoology)
The common name for the flat, disk-shaped echinoderms belonging to the order Clypeasteroida.
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