|A bag of sea monkeys - just add water and you immediately have living creatures in the aquarium! (Link)|
If you were a kid in the 70s or 80s of the last century, you probably know sea monkeys, tiny creatures that come in the mail in the form of grains in a bag, pour them into an aquarium and they come to life and become cute little crabs.
May 16th is a day dedicated to these special creatures and the weird story behind the way they came to our aquariums.
It all started when a young American entrepreneur named Harold von Braunhut discovered in 1956 that fishermen in his hometown of New York were using as bait for fish in cute little crabs. These tiny crabs had a wonderful ability - in extreme dry conditions they enter a state of dormancy where they can stay for many years, and as soon as they are put back in the water they come back to life and become agile swimmers. In addition, fertilized crab eggs can develop within 24 hours and tiny white crabs hatch from them as soon as water with salt is added.
Brownhut's business sense immediately went into action and he realized that these sweet creatures could be marketed as pets to lots of people and make a lot of money.
The creatures that Brownhut discovered are called artemia. It is a type of tiny cancer that is common in lakes and salt lakes. Its commercial collection is possible in a handful of places around the world such as Siberia, the Great Dead Sea in Utah in the US and China. They are also found in the diesel lagoons and the Atacama Desert in South America.
Brownhut realized that people would not be excited to just buy crabs called Artemia as a pet, so he thought and thought and decided to call them "sea monkeys" because their long tails reminded him of monkeys.
He hired an illustrator named Joe Orlando who created comic books in which he built a whole world of magical characters from fairy tales of their own living in the underwater world.
American children were enthralled by the new animals that were discovered to the world and of course asked their parents to buy them, and sea monkeys became the flagship hit in America. Von Brownhut patented his invention and later developed with his team a "commercial breed" of Artemia - carefully selected and engineered crabs to suit longer aquarium life.
These tiny crabs have also become TV stars - they have appeared on shows like Spin City, Roseanne, Night Court, South Park, The Simpsons, Garry Shandling's show and Desperate Housewives. On October 29, 1998, sea monkeys went into space with astronaut John Glenn aboard the space shuttle Discovery. They returned to Earth after spending nine days in space and the eggs that hatched eight weeks later were apparently not affected at all by their travels.
May 16 is also Biographers Day
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