Attack of the Aquasaurs, Part I
January 3, 2010Posted by andrew |
We now have a small plastic tank in our living room that, if everything goes according to plan, will soon be be home to some amazing living fossils: Aquasaurs! What are Aquasaurs? They're the commerical name for a critter known as a Triops or tadpole shrimp (or Triops longicaudatus, if you want to get all scientific about things). Apparently they've been around since the Devonian period—about 350 million years ago—and can be found in vernal pools and seasonal ponds throughout North America. They look a little like miniature horseshoe crabs, and have three eyes, hence the Triops name.
Remember Sea Monkeys? Aquasaurs are kind of like that, except that they're bigger (up to two inches, including the tail) and meaner (they're cannibalistic) and cooler than Sea Monkeys, which, contrary to the box art and comic book ads, do not look like little pink cartoon people with antennae and webbed fingers. Sea Monkeys are in fact brine shrimp. The novelty of these species is that both can be put in a sort of suspended animation and reconstituted in water, resulting in instant pets of a sort.
One of my son's Christmas gifts was the Uncle Milton Deluxe Aquasaurs Habitat, which includes everything you need to grow your own colony of Triops, including a little plastic tank with Devonian-style graphics, Aquasaur eggs, and food. There's also a version available with nifty plastic volcanoes that costs a few bucks more and may be worth it, if that kind of thing makes you happy. The Aquasaurs have a lifespan of twenty to ninety days, and there are enough eggs included for two batches of them.
So now we've set up our tank (pictured here), filled it with spring water as per the directions, and are patiently waiting the seven to ten days it takes for the Aquasaurs to hatch. Then the real fun begins. Of course if we had Sea Monkeys they'd probably be swimming around in their habitat by now, but then cool things are worth the wait, aren't they? Look for an update when they start hatching.