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sanddollars250Check out this amazing natural phenomenon on Marco Island’s “Residents Beach!” Millions of young sand dollars can be seen in the surf. These sand dollars are actually keyhole urchins (named for their keyhole-shaped openings), and are related to sea urchins and sea stars. When alive, sand dollars are covered with a brown fuzzy covering but after the animal dies, the fuzz falls off and the skeleton turns white, bleached by the sun.

Keyhole urchins breed in spring, so these youngsters are almost one year old. They typically live for about five years. During your next walk on the beach, keep these words in mind: if it’s brown, leave it down (because it is a living animal). If it’s white, it’s all right (to take home, if you wish). Thanks to Loren W and Jennie N for sharing these pics.

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