Debbie Ridpath Ohi reads, writes and illustrates for young people. Every few weeks, she shares new art, writing and resources; subscribe below. Browse the archives here.

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SEA MONKEY & BOB: THE SCIENCE

(Last updated February 5, 2017)

COMING SOON....Factoids about Puffer Fish! Factoids about what floats and what sinks!

Also see the Sea Monkey & Bob video section for more science content!

 

Sea Monkeys are actually a hybrid breed of brine shrimp. The term "Sea-Monkey" is a brand name for a type of brine shrimp called Artemia NYOS developed in 1957 by Harold von Braunhut in collaboration with marine biologist Dr. Anthony D'Agostino.

Sea Monkeys are not monkeys. The "monkey" part of the name was apparently inspired by the long monkey-like tail.

Sea Monkeys don't live in the sea. Or at least brine shrimp don't live in the open ocean; there are too many predators. Instead, they are found in inland salt water bodies like the Great Salt Lake in northern Utah, on the rocky coast south of San Francisco, and in the Caspian Sea. They can also be found in other bodies of water with salt content, including salt swamps and man-made saltpans around the world. Brine shrimp are able to live in a wide variety of water salinity....even if the water has a 50% salt concentration! Their salty locations means there are far fewer predators BUT it also means that brine shrimp have less to eat.

Brine shrimp are born with one eye. As they grow, then two more eyes emerge upon maturity.

Brine shrimp breathe through their feet. Yes, I said feet. Brine shrimp have gills on their feet, and these gills help them handle high salt content in the water.

Brine shrimp never grow as big as the shrimp you see in the grocery store. They are only distantly related to the type of shrimp that people most people are used to eating. However, Native Americans ate brine shrimp directly for thousands of years. 

Brine shrimp come in different colors. Scientists theorize that the varied colors (like white, pink, green or transparent) are probably determined by what the brine shrimp eat and where they live.

Most brine shrimp are females. Also, females are able to fertilize their own eggs without the help of the male brine shrimp. This is called parthoneogenesis.

Eggs only hatch when conditions are good. If they aren't good, then the eggs drop as dormant cysts. This is the second way that brine shrimp can reproduce; the production of cysts requires sexual reproduction. These cysts can remain viable for many years.

Brine shrimp cysts are of increasing interest to medicine, particularly in the study of dehydration/freeze-drying. "Freeze-drying could keep vaccines fresh in remote areas where refrigeration is difficult, deliver insulin to diabetics without the need for injections, or give blood products like platelets a longer shelf life. Many of these sugar-coated products have already reached clinical trials." (Source: BBC)

Brine shrimp swim upside-down compared to most aquatic animals. 

Brine shrimp are attracted to the light. Because of this (also called positive phototaxis), it means that brine shrimp end to rise toward the surface during the day and sink again at night. It's also the reason that it looks as if brine shrimps swim upside-down -- their appendages point upward, toward the light.

 

REFERENCES AND RESOURCES:

Brine Shrimp In The Classroom: on BrineShrimpDirect.com. Includes tips on how to raise brine shrimp in the classroom.

Brine Shrimp Life Cycle - Genetic Science Learning Center.

Bring Shrimp Life Cycle - GLSEP (Great Salt Lake Ecosystem Program) website.

Great Salt Lake Brine Shrimp: includes info about why brine shrimp are important, what they eat, and how they reproduce.

Wikipedia entry on Brine Shrimp

Artemia Salina - Animal Diversity Web (ADW)

The Animal That Lives For 10,000 years - BBC Earth. Mentions the study of brine shrimp and cysts for potential use in medicine and long-term space travel.

What Are Sea-Monkeys? - on LiveScience

16 Amazing Facts About Sea Monkeys - on Mentalfloss.com

Mono Basin Paiutes: Mono Lake and Owens Valley Native Americans - Mentions that Native Americans used to eat brine shrimp.