|Other names||Instant Life|
|Type||Novelty aquarium pet|
|Inventor(s)||Harold von Braunhut|
Sea-Monkeys are a hybrid version of brine shrimp—a group of crustaceans that undergo cryptobiosis. Sea Monkeys are scientifically classified as Artemia NYOS (New York Ocean Science), while brine shrimp are classified as Artemia salina. Sea Monkeys are sold in hatching kits as novelty aquarium pets. Developed in the United States in 1957, at this point being just part of the Artemia salina species, by Harold von Braunhut, the product was heavily marketed, especially in comic books, and remains a presence in popular culture.
Ant farms had been popularized in 1956 by Milton Levine. Harold von Braunhut invented a brine-shrimp-based product the next year, 1957. Von Braunhut collaborated with marine biologist Dr. Anthony D'Agostino to develop the proper mix of nutrients and chemicals in dry form that could be added to plain tap water to create an accommodating habitat for the shrimp to thrive. Von Braunhut was granted a patent for this process on July 4, 1972.
They were initially called "Instant Life" and sold for $0.49, but von Braunhut changed the name to "Sea-Monkeys" in 1962. The new name was based on their salt-water habitat, together with the supposed resemblance of the animals' tails to those of monkeys.
Sea-Monkeys were intensely marketed in comic books throughout the 1960s and early 1970s using illustrations by the comic-book illustrator Joe Orlando. These showed humanoid animals that bear no resemblance to the crustaceans. Many purchasers were disappointed by the dissimilarity and by the short lifespan of the animals. Von Braunhut is quoted as stating: "I think I bought something like 3.2 million pages of comic book advertising a year. It worked beautifully."
A colony is started by adding the contents of a packet labelled "Water Purifier" to a tank of water. This packet contains salt, water conditioner, and some brine shrimp eggs. After 24 hours, this is augmented with the contents of a packet labelled "Instant Life Eggs", containing more eggs, yeast, borax, soda, salt, some food and sometimes a dye. Shortly thereafter, Sea-Monkeys hatch from the eggs that were in the "Water Purifier" packet. "Growth Food" containing yeast and spirulina is then added every few days. The best temperature for hatching is 24–27 °C (75–81 °F)
The animals sold as Sea-Monkeys are an artificial breed known as Artemia NYOS, formed by hybridising different species of Artemia. They live longer and grow bigger than ordinary brine shrimp. They undergo cryptobiosis or anhydrobiosis, a condition of apparent lifelessness which allows them to survive the desiccation of the temporary pools in which they live.
Astronaut John Glenn took Sea-Monkeys into space on October 29, 1998, aboard Space Shuttle Discovery during mission STS-95. After nine days in space, they were returned to Earth, and hatched eight weeks later apparently unaffected by their travels. However, earlier experiments on Apollo 16 and Apollo 17, where the eggs (along with other biological systems in a state of rest, such as spores, seeds and cysts) traveled to the Moon and back and were exposed to significant cosmic rays, observed a high sensitivity to cosmic radiation in the Artemia salina eggs; only 10% of the embryos which were induced to develop from eggs survived to adulthood. The most common mutations found during the developmental stages of the irradiated eggs were deformations of the abdomen or deformations on the swimming appendages and naupliar eye of the nauplius.
- The Amazing Live Sea Monkeys: a 1992 television series about three sea monkeys and their creator
- "Simpsons Already Did It", a South Park episode that prominently features a parody of Sea-Monkeys called Sea People
- Triops: a genus of small crustaceans in the order Notostraca (tadpole shrimp)
- Mexican jumping bean: seed pods inhabited by the larva of the moth Cydia deshaisiana which moves when heated
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