Q and A

Q: What is that noise I hear when I shake a dead sand dollar?

A: That rattling sound is actually the dried-up part of the mouth known as Aristotle's lantern. Sand dollars (Echinarachnius parma) are flat and round with a 5-petal design. Live animals are reddish-brown and have a felt-like coating of tiny spines. This native species, which grows to 3 inches (8 cm) in diameter, burrows in sandy bottoms in shallow to deep water. Sand dollars are also found along shallow beaches and bays. What most people see washed up on the beach are the shells (called "tests') of dead animals that have bleached white in sunlight.

Q: How many eggs do squid egg cases hold?

A: The long egg cases of the native long-finned squid (Loligo pealei) resemble fingers and hold up to 200 eggs. The squid has a cylindrical, tapered body (mantle); a head with four pairs of arms, one pair of tentacles, and large eyes; and triangular fins on each side of the rear end. Look for them in shallow water in warm months and offshore at greater depths in the winter. When mating or when stressed, squid change colors. If you catch one, beware of squid "ink,' which is squirted as a defense mechanism!

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