Brine Shrimp

I have two awesome friends that I like to get together with every week to just hang out and talk. We’ve done so for over a decade, and we never know where our tangents will take us. We do tend to ramble on. That’s half the fun.

On this particular night, we were discussing a dystopian novel called The Water Knife, by Paolo Bacigalupi, which, incidentally, I highly recommend. From there, we talked about water, and how scary it would be to have so little of it that we have to fight for it. That got us on the subject of desalinization, which somehow brought us to the Great Salt Lake, which I opined would provide about a cup of water if it ever were to be desalinized.

I then mentioned I had gone swimming in the Great Salt Lake, and that it was really wonderful, once every single paper cut stopped screaming, and once I got past all the brine flies on the shoreline, which are rather disgusting. Which brought us to a topic that I can’t say I’ve thought much about. Brine shrimp.

That sent me off to Google, of course. I’ve come to realize that brine shrimp are fascinating little creatures. Here’s what I learned.

They rarely grow to be more than half an inch long. They can be found all over the world in inland salty lakes. Scientists believe that they were once fresh water animals, but they adapted to extremely salty conditions so that they could avoid being preyed upon by fish. They have been present in the Great Salt Lake for 600,000 years. Brine shrimp do not live in the ocean.

Brine shrimp produce both eggs and cysts, each of which, at birth, take about two to three weeks to mature. The convenient thing about the cysts, which are embryos covered in a protective shell, is that they can be stored and, in essence, reconstituted at will. This means the harvesting of these cysts is a multi-million dollar industry. Brine shrimp are great food for everything from migrating birds to fish and crustaceans in aquariums.

And they’re hardy. I suspect they’d survive the apocalypse. They even traveled with John Glenn into outer space. Cysts are vacuumed off the surface of the lake, or shoveled from shore, then frozen, washed, dried, and vacuum sealed into containers for sale.

Another fun fact about brine shrimp is that if you’re my age, you might have bought some from an ad on the back page of your comic book. They are marketed as Sea Monkeys, and you can still order them, from a poorly designed website, here.

They sure aren’t as cheap as they used to be. But the nice thing is, this family company now puts much of its profits into a nature preserve in Maryland. To purchase these little guys, you still have to fill out a written form and mail it in, which is, in this day and age, quaint as all get out. Ah, the memories.

So, that’s everything you ever wanted to know about brine shrimp but were afraid to ask. This is what comes from rambling with friends. Isn’t it great?

Brine shrimp

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3 thoughts on “Brine Shrimp

  1. Pingback: Mountainous Molehills – The View from a Drawbridge

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