His craze for Dinosaurs has lasted 3 years now. Before that it was Airplanes, duration of craze - also 3 years. Throw in the first year of babyhood and the expanse of his life has been accounted for. Yes, he's nothing if he's not consistent, and yes, my little boy turned 7 this year. Months in advance he had picked out his birthday gift - a Jurassic Expedition set, 'with REAL fossils' it said on the box. On his birthday, he impatiently tore off the last separation of gift wrapping to finally be united with his much longed for gift. Along with excavation kits with bits of plastic bone packed into soft clay and Dinosaur jigsaw puzzles was a teeeny tiny pouch labeled 'Triops eggs' and another comparatively big box labeled 'feed'.
Triops, a kind of crustacean, are among the longest lived species earning them the title of 'living fossils'. Their fossil record reaches back to as far as 350 million years, remaining virtually unchanged since the Triassic period. In short an exceptionally hardy, resilient piece of nature. Apparently my 7 year old son, and because of him all of us, would be able to conveniently observe the birth and life of these remarkable species in the domestic comfort of our home. Indeed, how very convenient!
We set out in childlike excitement to find a home for the precious eggs to hatch and grow. Only the most elaborate aquarium was good enough for our new guests. we brought home an 80 x 40 cm tank, to hold about 130l of water all fitted with trappings of air pump, heater, illumination, filter, automatic feeding mechanism. We were ready! Imagine, we were going to have our very own fossil pets! Who needed dogs or cats or birds in cages or nimbly gnawing hamsters or guinea pigs when we could experience the magic of life unfold as it did (with some minor alterations) 350 million years ago! Then the sand was washed and poured in and an ensemble of hand picked rocks and stones adorned the Aquarium floor. At last the precious eggs were immersed into the water! Let the transportation back in time commence! From that point onwards, all eyes were kept peeled on the aquarium for the slightest signs of movement in the blankness of this uninhabited water world. Two chairs seating two gaping kids were permanently parked at the aquarium from where their noses stayed glued to the glass. Air bubbles rushed out from the vent in a constant steady, monotonously reliable stream, the bright white tube light shone down in the water, never waning, never waxing. We waited, and we waited....and Voila!! Amidst the lifelessly floating bubbles, and sediments was a shivering white speck! Microscopically throbbing, as only life can, clearly distinguishable in it's vigour from the inanimate specks. A natural ebullience shone through to us from within the glass enclosure. They were hatched and they were here! As the count went, more than a dozen dinosaur shrimps. The 7 year olds quickly assumed an officious sense of responsibility for the new borns, instructions to the feed cycles were carefully studied. Duties were distributed and responsibly accepted.
Humans and their children were amused and entertained by yet another successful domestication.
As the hours and the days passed on, the micro millimeter jerks and jitters that are their natural movement got ever increasingly nervous...or was it just my imagination?! Their sudden entry into this world of changing constants, of always bright or always dark, always bubbling or always not, seemed to be somewhat overwhelming. Instinctively they appeared to be searching for something, someone to protect them, teach them to eat, to swim....to survive. All that space made for so much emptiness. Save the bubbles batting them around, other life there was none. They fought off the currents, and searched till they tired. In a day the population had depleted, in two there was just one lone confused fighter to be spotted, last fish swimming. In three days there were none. All gone. The hardiest, most resilient creatures undermined.
Now the young spectators marvel poignantly from their prime seats at the emptiness of bubbly water. "They're just hiding in the rocks" said one. "Yes, they'll come out in another 350 million years" said the other. R.I.P Triops.