No Primordial Soup For You

sein_soup_nazi.jpgIt’s a classic American scene straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting. Christmas morning, a child in pajamas crouched in front of the tree bursting with anticipation. His weary bath-robed parents smile in the background as he tears opens a gift wrapped box then beams with pure delight as dozens of prehistoric sea crustaceans leap from the box and lick his face.

For centuries parents have been giving their children aquatic arthropods from Earth’s Devonian period so why should we be any different? So, after carefully discussing with Jack the responsibilities that come with being a pet owner Kathleen and I thought he was ready to experience the joy that can only come from successfully growing your own living fossils. When asked what type he wanted he surprised us with how specific he was with the details. “They have to have flat heads, three eyes, a skeleton on the outside of their bodies, sharp lateral fins, forked tails and 140 legs.” There was no question about it; my son wanted Triops Sauncauditus or what are more commonly referred to as Aquasaurs.

After taking the Aquasaur box down from his closet where it had been hidden for the last two years we began unpacking its contents and reading the directions. We discovered that the Aqausaur is cousin to the Trilobite (twice removed on their mother’s side and the Trilobites only really come around or call when they need bail money or when they’ve concocted another get rich quick scheme). Thankfully, we also quickly determined that the good people who created the Aquasaurs habitat made certain it was a child-centric activity that required only minimal help from an adult like finding a stable surface with a moderate temperature where the cat or Adam couldn’t knock it over, sticking the adhesive thermometer to the tank, rinsing the tank, slicing your finger open with a steak knife trying to open the plastic gravel bag, spreading the gravel on the tank floor and not the kitchen floor, pouring in the water, repeatedly asking your child not to touch or pull on the towel the tank is sitting on, slicing another finger open with a steak knife trying to open the plastic egg bag and finally, gently putting the eggs in the water In other words, kids should observe from a safe distance preferably from another room or, if possible, a friend’s house.

A few more facts that perhaps you didn’t know about Aquasaurs is that they 1) are unaffected by extreme heat, frost, drought, nuclear holocaust, Mongolian Warriors Biblical wrath, plague, pestilence, the vacuum of space and liberal politics, but apparently vulnerable to the deadliest of all the man-made and natural elements: tap water. The contract rider in the directions clearly stated spring water only and also required us to stock the habitat with M&M’s but to pick out all the blue ones first. 2) As they grow, the larger Aquasaurs can eat the smaller ones. Now here’s a teaching moment for Jack as he begins kindergarten next year. “Remember Jack, listen to your teachers, raise your hand to ask a question and only eat the kids that are smaller you.” 3) The water temperature of the habitat must be kept between 72 to 80 degrees. To keep the temperature up the directions recommend placing a desk lamp next to the habitat or for faster results try dropping a plugged in hair drier or toaster into the water. 4) By shining a flashlight into the habitat the Aquasaurs will swim towards it and then lie about how many drinks they have had that night.

After we finally got the contents of the box unpacked, inventoried and spread out on the kitchen counter, the gravel soaked and spread on the bottom of the habitat and the habitat filled with natural spring water and situated safely on a towel on top of the fireplace mantel it was finally time for the big moment where we pour the eggs into the water and set back in motion the circle of life that began in the primordial waters of an ancient ocean over 350 million years ago. Had the packet of eggs not looked like a dime bag filled with pencil sharpener shavings it might have actually been a pretty cool moment and worth the trouble.

It’s a classic American scene straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting. Mid-summers night, a father and son stand before a flimsy plastic aquarium with an erupting underwater volcano model. What could be either sawdust or oregano floats stagnant on the water’s surface while the father and son wait eagerly for cheap imitation sea monkeys to hatch and cannibalize each other.

It’s been 48 hours and there isn’t a single Aquasaur baby doing laps around the tank as the packaging promised. Jack is beginning to lose interest and due to evaporation most of the “eggs” are in fact now stuck to plastic just above the waterline. I’m beginning to think that back at the ol’ Aquasaur Factory someone is filling the egg packets with the contents of Lipton Tea Bags and if that’s the case then in another day or two the water in the tank is going to look like Jack’s pee when he’s dehydrated.

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