Friday, 30 July 2010

Zuppa di gamberetti

Some Triops cancriformis - horseshoe or tadpole shrimp - have been found in Dumfriesshire. They have remained unchanged for over 200 million years (not these specific individuals) and are thought to be the oldest living species on the planet. They are found across Europe, but are rare and until now had only been found in one locality in the UK - a pond in the New Forest.

In the back of American comics you used to get adverts for Sea Monkeys. As a kid I thought the adverts were really weird and was curious to know exactly what happened. Did one of them really have a crown? A trident? This was before the days of the internet. They are brine shrimp and you can buy a packet with a powder of dried embryos which will hatch out in a tank full of salt water and instantly transform your life into a world of wonder and joy. The 'eggs' can stay in cryptobiosis (ta da!) for as long as fifty years. Anyway - Triops are now sold like this, too. I don't think it's the same species, but probably Triops longicaudatus. In captivity they commonly grow as big as 6-8cm, but in the wild the ones found in Europe and Africa can be up to 11cm. Quite often a kid in the shop asks if the trilobites are fossil Triops. You can see the resemblance.

Triops have both male and female reproductive organs. I don't know where I was going with this, so I'll just stop.

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