Another day, another sand dollar on Ocean Beach
In November, The New York Times caused considerable stir in the neighborhoods near San Francisco’s Ocean Beach when it published a photo essay that had flattering pictures of the Outer Sunset but a headline that referred to the area as “bleak.” The Times went back to the beach recently, and this time turned out an article that might be more copacetic to locals — and perhaps might teach them something about one of the most common items beach-goers find underfoot.
The Times (or perhaps more accurately, San Francisco news organization The Bay Citizen, which produces local content for The Gray Lady) summarizes the life and death of Dendraster excentricus, the sand dollars that are ubiquitous on Ocean Beach:
Sand dollars are easily collected at Ocean Beach — a far safer hobby than swimming in the treacherous waves. The sand dollar is actually the endoskeleton of a populous sea animal, with 250 species worldwide. The local variety, Dendraster excentricus, is perhaps the strangest.
Dendraster excentricus ranges from Alaska to Baja California, about 300 feet offshore from the low tide line, in up to 300 feet of water. Related to sea urchins, a live sand dollar has a velvetlike coat that is actually thousands of tiny spines, only one to five millimeters long. …
If a live sand dollar is washed ashore, it can crawl slowly back into the waves, or it can cover itself by burrowing into the sand. Seagulls can crack them open and eat them by carrying them aloft and dropping them onto rocks.
While the article in general is interesting and informative, its final paragraph refers to a project by Burners Without Borders to create fire rings for bonfires on north Ocean Beach near the Beach Chalet. The article implies that the project is not yet completed, but the rings have been in place since 2007.