Monday, January 14, 2013

Sand Dollar

More treasures from the sea have been washing up on shore this winter. Last month I posted a photo of two lettered olives I discovered one sunny afternoon; and later I wrote about an unusual coral I found. Since then I've found more olives...and neighbors have been finding scotch bonnets and other shells. See Tuesday's post for two peculiar discoveries. Several days ago I almost stepped on this perfect sand dollar.

Ocracoke Sand Dollar

There is an interesting legend that says the sand dollar was created as a symbol to help evangelists teach the Christian faith. The five holes, it is said, represent the five wounds Christ received while on the cross: four nail holes and the hole made by the Roman soldier's spear.

In the center of one side of the sand dollar, believers see the five-petaled Easter lily, and in the middle of the lily, they claim, is the five-pointed star of Bethlehem. On the other side is a design that mimics the Christmas poinsettia, a symbol of Christ's birth.

When the sand dollar is broken open, five white pieces of shell emerge. They have the appearance of doves, and are said to bring good will and peace.

Of course, five is a number found frequently in biology. Many starfish and other echinoderms (the sand dollar is an echinoderm) exhibit five part radial symmetry. And almost all amphibians, reptiles, and mammals that have fingers or toes have five of them on each extremity.

The brittle, dead "shell" of the sand dollar (called the "test") is what beachcombers find washed up on the beach. The "doves" are actually mouth parts ("teeth" if you will). Sand dollars are fascinating creatures, and it is always a delight to stumble across an unbroken test.

Echinoderms have been around for about 500 million years. The legend of the sand dollar is a tribute to man's fertile imagination.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of the day Charles Lindbergh landed on Ocracoke. You can read it here:


I have also published (retroactively) a 27 item photo gallery of pictures from our recent trip to the Czech Republic, Hungary, & England. You can see them here:

No comments:

Post a Comment