Monday, April 24, 2017

Fairy Shrimp: What are you trying to tell me?

Fairy Shrimp, aka Anostraca, are weird little critters.  Weird not so much in their appearance, as animals at the bottom of the ocean are far stranger, nor in mechanism of survival, as locusts do that whole seven year thing that I find bonkers.  Think about how much can happen in seven years!  Say you're a little larva that buries itself deep in the ground and then seven years later you decide to come back up for air, but you can't.  Try as you might, you keep gnawing and pushing, but the dirt seems too hard to penetrate.  What happened?  Oh, that's right, progress happened.  You now live under a highway whose pavement was laid three years prior and are going to die before you figure out how to get around it.  Dumbass cicada.

No, Fairy Shrimp are weird because they send such a mixed message symbolically!  What are you trying to tell me, Fairy Shrimp?  What's your deal?

I should probably pump the brakes for a minute.  Ok, here's a little background.  In the precambrian era, the ocean ran through parts of the Pacific and Mountain timezones.  Eventually these waters receded leaving lakes that were reduced to ponds then puddles and finally to waterless deserts.  This is why Utah has such awesome natural rocky structures and why the Black Rock Desert is so alkali.  With Utah, arches and hoodoos were carved by flowing water, and in the Black Rock, living organism turned into dead organic matter with high alkaline content.  This is why skin can seem to get burned by the dust in the Black Rock Desert.  High pH, Low pH, All Bad pH.

Now that we've established the Black Rock Desert is really just a dried out lake bed, we can move onto Fairy Shrimp, the critters that once thrived in the now desiccated lake.  Anostraca are non-domesticated Sea Monkeys (Brine Shrimp).  And just like Sea Monkeys, Fairy Shrimp are able to maintain themselves in an egg state for years (up to eight, or so I hear) without dying out.  But unlike brine shrimp, they aren't sold to children in this dormant state.  No, instead they lie just below the top soil, if you want to call it that, of post-lake drylands.  Those eggs lie there in waiting, resisting the heat of the sun and dry of the air, in the hopes that one day, rain will drench the barren landscape, providing them with enough swimming room to hatch and get their freak on with another Fairy Shrimp before the sun turns their happy home into a fine mist floating through the air.

Actual Size

And that's exactly what's been going on for centuries.  Those little buggers lay dormant for years, heavy rains eventually hit the desert, they hatch, they feed, they breed, they lay more eggs, they die, the water evaporates, and the cycle starts anew.  This takes me back to the start.  What are they trying to tell us with their life's story?  Is it a tale of resilience?  A story with a moral rooted in the importance of persistence in an unpredictable, uncaring, inhospitable environment?  Proof that life is important and strong enough to overcome any obstacle given time and patience?  Or is it an example of the futility and meaninglessness of life?  Their lives are brief and they accomplish nothing other than creating more brief, meaningless lives.  Are you trying to tell me that life is hard but entirely worth the struggle or that to spend time struggling is foolish and that life is an unfair joke?  Seriously!  Don't leave me hanging like this!  Ugh, stupid Fairy Shrimp and your cruel ambiguity.  Fine.  Take your secrets to your grave and see if I care.

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