How Long Can Sand Dollars Live Out of Water: Everything You Need to Know


Greetings, fellow ocean enthusiasts! Today’s topic is an interesting yet crucial question that many people ask: how long can sand dollars live out of water? If you’ve ever visited a beach, you’ve probably come across a few of these flat, disc-shaped echinoderms, also known as Clypeasteroida.

They’re often found washed ashore and can be fascinating creatures to observe. But how long can they survive without water? Can they survive at all? We’ve gathered some essential information and answers to these questions to help shed some light on the topic.

Before we dive in, let’s first understand what sand dollars are and their physical characteristics. This will give us a better understanding of how they live and survive.

What Are Sand Dollars?

A sand dollar is a type of echinoderm, which means “spiny skin.” They’re closely related to sea urchins and starfish and can be found in shallow coastal waters around the world, particularly in the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean.

They have a flattened shape, with five-fold symmetry (like a starfish) and no visible arms or tentacles. Their bodies are covered with a layer of tiny spines, which they use for movement and protection.

A unique feature of sand dollars is their endoskeleton, which is a hard, white shell made up of calcium carbonate. This shell is often referred to as a “test,” and it protects the sand dollar’s internal organs.

Now that we have a basic understanding of what sand dollars are, let’s explore how long they can survive out of the water.

How Long Can Sand Dollars Live Out of Water?

You may have heard that sand dollars can survive out of water for up to a week, and some people even keep them as souvenirs or decorations. However, this is not entirely accurate, and the answer isn’t as straightforward as a one-week limit.

The Lifespan of a Sand Dollar

Before we discuss how long a sand dollar can live out of water, let’s first understand their overall lifespan. Sand dollars typically live for about ten years in their natural habitat, and their lifespan can be affected by several factors, such as water temperature, food availability, and predators.

In their early life stages, sand dollars are free-swimming larvae that need to find a suitable habitat to settle. Once they find a suitable location, such as a sandy bottom, they’ll begin to develop their hard calcium carbonate test and bury themselves partially in the sand.

As they grow, they’ll continue to burrow deeper into the sand, creating a system of tunnels. They’ll also feed on microscopic plants and animals in the water, using their spines to collect food particles and move them towards their mouth at the center of their bodies.

At around five years of age, sand dollars will reach maturity and begin to reproduce. They’ll release eggs and sperm into the water, where fertilization occurs. The fertilized eggs will then hatch into free-swimming larvae and start the process over again.

The Truth About Sand Dollars Living Out of Water

Contrary to popular belief, sand dollars cannot survive very long out of water. Their endoskeletons are porous and permeable, meaning they absorb moisture from their surroundings to maintain their balance and stay hydrated.

When a sand dollar is out of the water, it quickly becomes dehydrated, and its body starts to break down. This process can happen within a few hours, depending on the temperature and humidity of the environment.

If a sand dollar is out of the water for more than a day, it’s unlikely to survive. Even if it’s returned to the water, there’s a high chance that its internal organs have already begun to decompose, causing irreversible damage.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Keeping Sand Dollars as Souvenirs

Many people like to collect sand dollars as souvenirs of their beach trips, but doing so can have both advantages and disadvantages.


Sand dollars can be beautiful and intricate, and they make lovely decorations or keepsakes. If collected sustainably and legally, they can be a harmless and enjoyable way to remember your beach vacation.


Collecting too many sand dollars can harm the ecosystem and impact the sand dollar population, which can cause a ripple effect on other organisms that rely on them. It’s important to collect them sustainably and only take what you need.

Additionally, harvesting sand dollars that are still alive is illegal and can result in fines or criminal charges. If you do choose to collect sand dollars, make sure they’re already dead or empty shells.

The Complete Guide: How Long Can Sand Dollars Live Out of Water?

Here’s a table that summarizes the information we’ve gathered about how long sand dollars can live out of water:

Timeframe Condition/Environment Survival Rate
1-2 hours Out of water, room temperature Low
2-3 hours Out of water, humid environment Moderate
4-6 hours Out of water, damp sand or moist towel High-Moderate
24 hours+ Out of water, dry environment Low to None

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. Can sand dollars survive out of water?

No, sand dollars cannot survive very long out of water. They quickly become dehydrated and can start to decompose within a few hours.

2. How long can sand dollars live out of water?

The length of time a sand dollar can survive out of water depends on several factors. In general, if they’re out of the water for more than a day, they’re unlikely to survive.

3. Can you keep sand dollars as souvenirs?

Yes, you can keep sand dollars as souvenirs, but it’s important to make sure you’re collecting them sustainably and legally. It’s illegal to harvest live sand dollars, and collecting too many can impact the ecosystem and population.

4. How can you tell if a sand dollar is alive or dead?

You can tell if a sand dollar is alive or dead by gently touching its spines. If they’re moving or reacting, the sand dollar is alive. If they’re stiff, the sand dollar is likely dead.

5. Why do sand dollars wash up on shore?

Sand dollars wash up on shore when they die or become stranded due to strong waves or currents. They’re often found in clusters, and their empty shells can be collected as souvenirs.

6. What do sand dollars eat?

Sand dollars feed on microscopic plants and animals in the water. They use their spines to collect food particles and move them towards their mouth at the center of their bodies.

7. What is the purpose of a sand dollar?

The purpose of a sand dollar is to be a part of the marine ecosystem. They contribute to the food chain by eating smaller organisms and being eaten by larger predators. They also help keep sand and sediment moving, which can prevent erosion.

8. Can sand dollars regenerate?

Yes, sand dollars can regenerate some of their body parts, such as spines and tube feet, if they’re damaged or lost. However, they cannot regenerate their entire body.

9. Are sand dollars endangered?

Sand dollars are not currently considered endangered, but their populations can be impacted by environmental factors such as pollution, overfishing, and habitat destruction.

10. Do sand dollars have predators?

Yes, sand dollars have several natural predators, including crabs, starfish, and some species of fish.

11. What is the significance of a sand dollar in Christianity?

Some people believe that the markings on a sand dollar’s surface represent the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and they have become a symbol of faith for some Christians.

12. Can you eat sand dollars?

No, sand dollars are not typically consumed by humans. They have no real nutritional value and are not considered a food source.

13. How can we protect sand dollar populations?

We can protect sand dollar populations by practicing sustainable and legal collection practices, reducing pollution and habitat destruction, and supporting conservation efforts in marine ecosystems.


In conclusion, sand dollars cannot survive very long out of water and should not be taken out of their natural habitats unless for a sustainable and legal purpose. They’re fascinating creatures that contribute to the marine ecosystem and serve as a reminder of the beauty and diversity of our oceans.

By respecting and protecting sand dollar populations, we can help maintain the delicate balance of our ecosystems and preserve them for future generations.

So, the next time you visit a beach and come across a sand dollar, remember to observe and appreciate it in its natural habitat and leave it there for others to enjoy.


Disclaimer: The information presented in this article is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as medical or professional advice. Always consult with a qualified professional before making any decisions regarding your health or safety.

Thank you for reading! We hope this article has answered some of your questions and provided valuable information about this fascinating creature. If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to leave them below.

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