Does Anyone Know What Today Is? National Sea Monkey Day

sea_monkeysNational Sea Monkey Day is celebrated on May 16th of each year. Sea-Monkeys is a brand name for brine shrimp – a group of crustaceans that undergo cryptobiosis – often sold in hatching kits as novelty aquarium pets. Invented in 1957 by Harold von Braunhut, the product was heavily marketed, especially in comic books, and remains a presence in popular culture.

Harold von Braunhut invented the product based on brine shrimp in 1957. Ant farms had been popularised the year before by Milton Levine. Initially called “Instant Life”, von Braunhut changed the name to “Sea-Monkeys” in 1962. This was based on the supposed resemblance of the animals’ tails to those of monkeys, and their salt-water habitat. The product was intensively marketed in comic books using illustrations of humanoid animals drawn by the comic-book illustrator Joe Orlando, which bear no resemblance to the crustaceans. Von Braunhut is quoted as stating: “I think I bought something like 3.2 million pages of comic book advertising a year. It worked beautifully.” Many purchasers were disappointed by the dissimilarity, and by the short lifespan of the animals.

Sea-Monkeys remain a popular product, and have gained a cult following. References to Sea-Monkeys have been made in films and television series, including Spin City, Roseanne, Night Court, South Park, The Simpsons, It’s Garry Shandling’s Show and Desperate Housewives. A spin-off television series was broadcast on Saturday mornings on CBS, The Amazing Live Sea Monkeys, which ran from September 1992 to August 1993, and was based on Joe Orlando’s cartoons.

The astronaut John Glenn took Sea-Monkeys into space on October 29, 1998 aboard Space Shuttle Discovery during mission STS-95. After nine days in space, they were returned to Earth, and hatched eight weeks later apparently unaffected by their travels.

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