Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Miss. Alexandrowicz's Class from Madison Heights. Miss. Alexandrowicz's Class Wonders, “What are Sea Monkeys?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Miss. Alexandrowicz's Class!
In today's digital world, kids are growing up with different forms of entertainment than their parents and grandparents experienced. Many modern kids enjoy video games and smartphone apps. If you were to ask your parents or grandparents what they enjoyed to pass the time, they might answer with comic books.
In addition to losing themselves in a cartoon world of superheroes, parents or grandparents likely remember the fun they had leafing through the pages of advertisements in the back of their favorite comics. These ads contained a whole world full of interesting products you could purchase through the mail.
One of those products became a marketing sensation that still makes millions of dollars today. The product's interesting advertisement featured a family of creatures that looked a bit like aliens. It promised that, with a bowl of water and a couple of packets of magical powder, you would see sea creatures come to life. What are we talking about? Sea monkeys, of course!
Now, before you get too excited, we should warn you: these creatures did not live in the sea and they certainly weren't monkeys. But wouldn't real-life sea monkeys be cool? Can you imagine monkeys riding dolphins like they were horses? Anyway, we digress…
The "Sea-Monkeys" advertised in old comic books were actually a special type of crustacean called brine shrimp. In fact, they were the result of the combined efforts of a marine biologist and a clever inventor with a knack for marketing.
Scientists believe brine shrimp have existed on Earth for millions of years. Instead of oceans, they prefer saltwater lakes that have especially high salinity. Because these lakes dry up occasionally, brine shrimp have adapted over the years to survive dry conditions by entering a form of hibernation called anhydrobiosis.
In dry conditions, female brine shrimp can produce eggs with a special coating that allows them to remain inactive until appropriate conditions return. In 1957, Harold von Braunhut, an inventor of novelty items, worked closely with Dr. Anthony D'Agostino, a marine biologist, to create a new hybrid species of brine shrimp that would have an especially long dormant period.
Cleverly marketed as "Sea-Monkeys," a kit would arrive in the mail with two packets of powder. The first, called "Water Purifier," contained water conditioner, salt, and a few brine shrimp eggs. After adding the first packet to regular water, you would need to wait 24 hours before adding the second packet, called "Instant Life Eggs," which contained more brine shrimp eggs, salt, soda, borax, and food.
Soon thereafter the brine shrimp would hatch. To create an interesting product, von Braunhut called them "Sea-Monkeys," because he claimed their tails resembled those of monkeys. However, they didn't look anything like monkeys, and they also didn't resemble the alien-like creatures featured in the Sea-Monkey ads.
Sea-Monkeys were very popular during the 1960s and 1970s. After all, who wouldn't be amazed by pouring powder into tap water and seeing life spring forth? Today, Sea-Monkey sales are still in the millions of dollars each year.
As for the creatures themselves, brine shrimp might not sound quite as cool as sea monkeys. However, they're actually really interesting. In addition to breathing through their feet, they are born with just one eye but grow two more as they reach maturity! They can also survive extremely harsh conditions, such as boiling and below-freezing temperatures and crushing pressures like that of the deep ocean. Scientists have even launched them into space to test their ability to survive cosmic radiation!