From the Super Mario Wiki, the Mario encyclopedia
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Sand blocks first appear in the game Donkey Kong for the Game Boy. They dissolve as soon as Mario walks over them. They do not return afterwards. In one level in Rocky-Valley, walking over sand blocks will set a group of Chikuchiku free which are trapped under the sand blocks. Another stage in the Tower consists entirely of sand blocks.
In Super Mario Sunshine, sand blocks appear in many secret levels. If Mario walks over them, they collapse and disappear, then reappear after a certain amount of time. Their function is similar to the Shrinking Tiles that are later found in Super Mario Galaxy.
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