Teaching Kids About Diapause with Shield Shrimps

December 14, 2009 Updated: October 1, 2015

SHIELD SHRIMP: These tiny creatures can teach kids about an unusual biological phenomenon.  (Courtesy of Triops Inc.)
SHIELD SHRIMP: These tiny creatures can teach kids about an unusual biological phenomenon. (Courtesy of Triops Inc.)
Wondering what to get your children for Christmas? Consider gifts that can teach them about science.

There are several options for science-related toys, from chemistry sets to quiz games. However, the best are those that offer the right balance of education and entertainment.

The classic ant farm is one such gift. This time-honored toy allows children daily observation into ants' underground behavior and life cycle.

Triops Inc. offers a similar experience with a more exotic creature. It puts kids in touch with an unusual and truly ancient animal.

Shield shrimps (more commonly known as Triops after their genus) are tiny crustaceans that have been around for 200 million years. The secret to their longevity is a phenomenon known as diapause.

Think of diapause as a kind of suspended animation. Shield shrimps live in ponds found all over the world. During times of drought the adults die off, while their eggs remain in a state of diapause. When conditions are ripe and rainfall returns, the eggs that were previously laid in the substrate can hatch. Scientists have found that shield shrimps can remain in diapause for more than 15 years.

Dr. Eugene Hull, director of the Diapause Research Foundation and president of Triops Inc., started selling shield shrimps as pets because many parents wanted their children to witness the “instant fish” that he developed for research in 1990.

Proceeds from Triops Inc. fund the Diapause Research Foundation. Examining the biological clock in the eggs of animals that experience diapause, scientists hope to find ways to slow the aging process, stop cancer growth in humans or even extend space travel.

Shield shrimps are found throughout the world, from temperate to tropical climates. However, Triops Inc. sells eggs that are grown in the lab so as not to interfere with the ecosystem. The company also provides a booklet that teaches children about shield shrimps and a curriculum that schools can use as a lab material.

To download the booklet and curriculum, please visit triops.com.

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