Surprising Facts About Sand Dollars on the Oregon Coast

Published 03/08/2012

All sand dollar photos courtesy Seaside Aquarium.

(Seaside, Oregon) – Oh, the lowly sand dollar. The wafer-like, somewhat surrealistically sculpted circular thing that feels like dried clay in your hands, which you often buy from curios shops along the Oregon coast. You see plenty of them lying around the beaches as well, mostly in pieces. Sometimes you find a whole one while beachcombing, and these almost always become treasured mementos – something you want to take home.

These coveted keepsakes were at one time alive, however. And while they wash up on these beaches all whitish or light gray, they are a deeper gray to lavender when still alive.

A live sand dollar

A little known secret about the north Oregon coast is that the very northern end of Seaside has a ton of them, as well as the southern part of Gearhart – close to the mouth of the Necanicum. So it's no surprise or coincidence that Seaside Aquarium recently issued some valuable information about the small sea-bound circles.

“Sand dollars are live animals and are found worldwide,” the Aquarium's Tiffany Boothe said. “There are many different species, each with their own unique characteristics.”

They are related to sea urchins, Boothe said.

They grow in dense beds just offshore, and the area around the Necanicum seems to have a larger-than-usual congregation of them. This is because of the nutrients in the area, which flow out in great abundance from the mouth of the Columbia and Necanicum. This in turn feeds the phytoplankton and causes a greater population of those, which not only the sand dollars feed on but the clams in the area as well. This is why Clatsop beaches are so awesome for razor clams.

This abundance of phytoplankton also causes the ocean to turn a mysterious brown sometimes around the Seaside area and just south of Astoria at Warrenton and Fort Stevens State Park.

Boothe said the sand dollars break down the phytoplankton with five small teeth. Each resembles a bird in many many ways, and people often refer to them as “doves.”

“The outside of their shell is covered with millions of tiny spines which look like 'fuzz' or hair,” she said. “These spines aid in the movement and feeding of the sand dollar.”

This means if you find a sand dollar that is still fuzzy, you'll want to leave it alone. It's still alive. Grabbing one and putting it in your car will yield an unpleasant surprise.

“They can smell quite badly if taken to your home,” Boothe said.

The beaches around the Necanicum River yield more whole sand dollars than probably anywhere on the Oregon coast. Part of this is because of the nutrient-rich area, but also because once they wash up here, these beaches are deserted enough that they remain unbroken.

Below: the northern end of Seaside and the southern end of Gearhart

 

More About Oregon Coast hotels, lodging.....

More About Oregon Coast Restaurants, Dining.....

A famous little family eatery where the seafood practically gets shuffled from the sea straight into your mouth. Soups and salads include many seafood specialties, including cioppino, chowders, crab Louie and cheese breads. Fish 'n' chips come w/ various fish. Seafood sandwiches with shrimp, tuna or crab, as well as burgers. Dinners like pan fried oysters, fillets of salmon or halibut, saut�ed scallops.
Oregon Coast event or adventure you can't miss
Pacific City, Oregon

 


Breathtaking high panoramic beach views from oceanfront rooms, spacious family suites & fully equipped cottages.  Known for gracious hospitality, the sparkling clean Sea Horse features a heated indoor pool, dramatic oceanfront spa, great whale watching, free deluxe continental breakfast, conference room, free casino shuttle & HBO.  Fireplaces, private decks and spas are available in select rooms.  Close to shops, golf, fishing & restaurants.  Pets are welcome in select rooms.  Senior discounts.  Kids 18 and under stay free in their parent's room.  Very attractive rates.
Lincoln City’s only resort hotel built right on the beach with all oceanfront rooms - nestled against a rugged cliffside overlooking a soft, sandy beach. Dine in penthouse restaurant and bar, for casual meal or candlelight dinner. An array of seafood specialties, juicy steaks and other Northwest favorites, including decadent Sunday buffet. Rooms range from bedrooms to studios to 1-bedroom suites with microwaves and refrigerators to full kitchens. Also, wi-fi, spa, saunas, exercise room and year-round heated swimming pool. Kids will love the game room and easy beach access. Full-service conference/meeting rooms for that inspirational retreat; extensive wedding possibilities.

 

LATEST Related Oregon Coast Articles

Get Ready for Second Summer on Oregon Coast: Warmest Through October
Many still don't know this, but September and early October see the beaches at their finest. Weather
Bevy of Beachy Events: Labor Day Weekend Highlights on Oregon Coast
There's a lot to do and see out on the beaches - even more than meets the eye. Seaside events, Manzanita events, Tillamook events, Lincoln City events, Yachats events
N. Oregon Coast Group Releases Stunning Promo Videos of Tillamook County
Visit Tillamook Coast with Sea Legs Media of Salem produced seven, story-based videos
Red Flag Warning for Oregon Coast, Heat Advisory in Coast Range
Oregon coast is getting a red flag warning through Thursday night, while the coast range is under a heat advisory. Weather
North Coast Outdoor Events in September Include Inaugural CoastWalk Oregon
September is full of engaging outdoor events on the north Oregon coast. Seaside events, Manzanita events
Total Solar Eclipse in One Year Gives Oregon Coast Extra Time
Depoe Bay and Lincoln Beach will have the most time in darkness in the state. Science
The Crazy, Hazy Tale of a Spectacular Oregon Coast Real Estate Failure
Jump Off Joe is a wacky and twisting, turning bit of history on the Oregon coast, Newport, Nye Beach
Full Sturgeon Moon Tonight for Oregon Coast - Still Some Meteors
Meanwhile, there are still some shooting stars from the Perseids to look for

Back to Oregon Coast

Contact Advertise on BeachConnection.net
All Content, unless otherwise attributed, copyright BeachConnection.net Unauthorized use or publication is not permitted