Triops are grown similar to “Sea Monkeys,” as kits of dehydrated eggs [LINK, LINK, LINK] - just add water and watch them do their thing.
Triops have changed very little over the eons and one species - Triops cancriformis - is the oldest unchanged animal on the planet; it looks the same as it did 220 million years ago.
More after the jump
They are called Triops because they have three eyes (duly noted in the song “Triops Has Three Eyes” by They Might Be Giants). They have a third “naupliar” eye behind their other two compound eyes; most crustaceans have this solitary naupliar eye when they are very young and tiny and floating around as plankton, but they lose it as their two “adult” eyes grow in. The Triops somehow hangs on to this “baby eye” into its adulthood.
Triops kits have been showing up in stores everywhere these days, so months ago I bought one and grew Triops in my livingroom. Here are the highlights:
[click to embiggen]
DAY 0 – Poured the dried eggs in water, like living Kool-Aid.
DAY 2 – OhMyGodTheyHatched! There are about 7 tiny pink little things swimming around!
DAY 6 – All but 3 have disappeared. . . HOLY SHIT! THE BIG ONE IS EATING THE OTHER ONES!!! I watch in horror as the biggest one trounces and eats its remaining two siblings. The instructions never said anything about this.
DAY 12 – The only one to survive the Donner Party childhood has shed her* skin several times and is growing rapidly like the creature in “Alien.” From head to tail, she is now the length of a dime.
DAYS 19 – 65 – Reaching the adult length of a 50¢ piece, she swims around, digs in the sand, eats, sheds skin, and poops. Always poops. At any given moment, there is a long Triops dingleberry hanging-off of her tail. And she lays little pink eggs* in the sand, buries them, digs them up, eats them. She is a terrible mother.
DAY 66 – This morning, Triops was swimming slowly on her back, gills and legs moving slowly. Maybe she's tired . . . nope, wait . . . she's now dead. Wow. Time to go buy a puppy.
*With this species, Triops longicaudatus, almost all are female and they can reproduce asexually.
[click to gigantify my awesome original illustration]