Mono Lake's Unique Species
If I only had a penny for every Mono Lake brine shrimp I'd be a billionaire!
NOT "PEEL AND EAT"
Within Mono Lake's briny waters are trillions of brine shrimp, Artemia monica, a species of brine shrimp found nowhere else in the world. An estimated 4-6 trillion brine shrimp inhabit the lake during the warmer summer months. Mono Lake shrimp are tiny, about the size of your thumbnail, and by July Mono Lake water looks very much like shrimp soup. Brine shrimp have no practical food value for humans, but birds regard them as haute cuisine. Abundant shrimp provide a feast for the birds, yet the birds barely put a dent in the brine shrimp population until nearly two million Eared Grebes arrive for "shrimp cocktail" in the fall.
The fishing at Mono Lake is excellent, its just the catching that's bad--Mono Lake's alkalinity (pH=10) makes life impossible for fish. In contrast the freshwater streams flowing into Mono Lake are home to non-native Rainbow and Brown Trout. Fisherfolk legend has it that trout will sometimes dart from freshwater streams into Mono Lake water to gobble up unsuspecting shrimp. Otherwise the only way fish get to eat Mono Lake brine shrimp is through the frozen, packaged variety that the local brine shrimp plant harvests for tropical fish food.
If you venture down to Mono Lake in the winter and you will find the water empty of brine shrimp. The brine shrimp population dies off as the lake cools in the winter. Yet, by spring tiny brine shrimp mysteriously begin to reappear. Where did this new generation of brine shrimp come from? In the late summer and fall, female brine shrimp produce tiny cysts, (dormant, undeveloped embryos), that overwinter at the bottom of the lake. In the spring the cysts develop into tiny shrimp as the lake warms--beginning a new generation of shrimp.
Science NetLinks Brine Shrimp Survival Experiment