Animal, Vegetable or Mineral?

Sand Dollar

Quick. Which is it?

The Four-Year-Old’s waiting.

Whether you call it a sea cookie, snapper biscuit, or pansy shell, the beach dweller known in the States as the sand dollar is in fact an animal. Improbable though that may seem when you’re looking at its flat little remnant in the sand.

OK, OK, so you probably knew that.

But here’s something you might not know, courtesy of Wikipedia:

Those bleached sand dollar lumps you find on the beach? They aren’t shells. They’re a type of rigid skeleton known as a test. In live sand dollars, that skeleton is covered by a skin full of hairy, velvety spines. Sand dollars use those green, blue, purple or violet spines to move along the seabed as they forage for food.

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(Image of the sand dollar by kevindibble via Flickr)

About Shala Howell

I spent two decades helping companies like Bell Labs, Juniper Networks, and a genetic testing company that was later acquired by CVS translate some of the world’s most complicated concepts into actionable, understandable English. Now I'm working on a much harder problem -- fostering children’s curiosity and engagement in the scientific, artistic, and linguistic world that surrounds them. The first book in my Caterpickles Parenting Series, What’s That, Mom?, focuses on how to use public art to nurture children’s curiosity in the world around them. My next book will focus on science, and how parents without a science degree can answer their curious child's questions without enrolling in a college level refresher course. In the meantime, you can find me blogging about life with a very curious Eleven-Year-Old at, chatting about books and the writing life at, and tweeting about books, writing, science, & things that make me smile at @shalahowell.
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One Response to Animal, Vegetable or Mineral?

  1. Pingback: Fossil sanddollar | Zylanbrooks

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