sand dollar, common name for a marine animal in the same phylum as the starfish (see sea star). 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 Echinodermata, class Echinoidea, order Clypeastroida.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.