Dec 16, 2016

Oolitic Sand and Brine Shrimp

Oolitic sand is pill-shaped sand prevalent on the bottom of Great Salt Lake and several beaches. It is soft, smooth and round unlike regular sand that is jagged-edged. A grain of oolitic sand begins as a brine shrimp fecal pellet or other small bit of debris. Calcium and magnesium carbonate particles build up around it, creating oolitic sand and separating brine shrimp waste from the rest of the water. In this way, oolitic sand functions as a filter for Great Salt Lake.
Brine shrimp are the most populous animal in Great Salt Lake. These tiny crustaceans live in salt water around the world, but only one species, Artemia franciscana lives in Great Salt Lake. They measure up to 0.5 inches (1.37 centimeters) long and can live in water with up to 33 percent salinity, according to Great Salt Lake Ecosystem Program. They can control how much salt gets into their body tissues better than any other organism on Earth, due to skin lining their stomachs and gills.

Incidentally, a massive brine shrimp harvest occurs every Autumn. The brine shrimp are primarily sent to Asia and South America where they are used as feeders for commercially grown prawn and fish.