Friday, December 29, 2006

Prehistoric Monsters?

Pretty embarrassing to be hosting the Circus of the Spineless this month without any spineless blog entries of my own, but fortunately my local grocery store came to the rescue. We were grocery shopping last night and perusing the post Christmas close outs when what to my wondering eyes should appear but this little kit from the Smithsonian Institute.

The box screams:

"Prehistoric Sea Monsters"

"Watch living fossils from the dinosaur age grow before your eyes."

"Hatch and grow amazing Triops again and again"

Well, sounds a bit like sea monkeys to me if you are familiar with those so naturally I was a bit skeptical. It turns out that these Triops are pretty neat. The Wikipedia entry for Triops says that this genus of Crustacea includes species that appear to be unchanged since the Triassic about 220 million years ago...so I guess that does put them in the living fossil category.

Image credit:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Triops_longicaudatus.jpg
Photograph taken by Dominik Tomaszewski from http://mytriops.com/

It's not clear from the instructions which Triops species is in the Kit, presumably it is Triops cancriformis or T. longicautatus. Hopefully I can find out for sure. They are not sea monsters, but instead live in small fresh water temporary pools, unlike "Sea monkeys" which live in briney water such as the great salt lake. Both Triops and Sea Monkey's are in the class Branchiopoda which also includes fairy shrimp, a familiar resident of temporary fresh water pools here in the Midwest.

At any rate, my plan is to hold off setting them up until I start my Spring semester and have my general biology students follow them through their life cycle with me. I've done this before with "Sea Monkeys" as a way of providing something concrete to unify the semester and I will blog on them periodically.

Other links:
Pictures and movies of Triops:
http://www.arkive.org/species/ARK/invertebrates_terrestrial_and_freshwater/Triops_cancriformis/

A Triops fansite:
http://mytriops.com/

An introduction to the Branchiopoda:
http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/arthropoda/crustacea/branchiopoda.html

and if you have never had Sea Monkeys before: the Official Sea Monkey site!
http://www.sea-monkey.com/
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