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Suspended Animation
Primeval Shrimps and the Art of Survival

Primeval shrimp eggs seem to be able to survive for millennia.

A printer-friendly version of this page 44 minutes
Directed by Günther Bludszuweit and Ilona Riehl
Produced by ORCA Naturfilmproduktion

For more than 200 million years primeval shrimps (branchiopods) have survived, essentially unchanged, all over the world, almost like living fossils. Though they are unusual and colorful in appearance, hardly anyone has noticed them. Their survival strategy sounds like science fiction. They seem to have perfected the art of suspended animation.

In perfect adaptation to temporary freshwater ponds, vernal pools, or salt lakes, they have developed resting eggs that contain an embryo. These eggs remain viable for decades, perhaps even millennia. The embryo manages to survive without any metabolism. Extreme heat and extreme cold have no effect, though the loss of vernal pools to development poses a serious threat to fairy and tadpole shrimps in places like Southern California.

How can these seemingly dead embryos prevent decay? What switches them on to life again? Filled with spectacular macrophotography, this documentary illustrates the life cycle of branchiopods. Three years in the making, it was shot all over Europe and in the Great Salt Lake in Utah.

Note: This documentary is a re-titled and re-narrated version of the original German film "Tod auf Zeit", for which there was a translated version in English called "We Die to Live".

Grade Level: Grades 7-12, College, Adult
US Release Date: 2000     Copyright Date: 1999
DVD ISBN: 1-59458-893-7     VHS ISBN: 1-56029-812-X

"This award-winning nature film is surely a masterpiece in its category. One seldom sees such superb nature cinema presented with clear and concise narration targeted toward a broad lay audience. Don't be fooled, though, because there is plenty here for the most ardent carcinologist...This film is a magnificent production and a powerful teaching tool. "
Dr. Christopher Tudge, Biology Dept., American University

"This is an excellent video! It does a superior job of giving an overview of the unique lifestyle of branchiopod crustaceans...The information presented is well researched and scientifically rigorous. In fact, I learned new information I didn't know about these shrimps, and I'm a branchiopod biologist!...I will DEFINITELY use this video in my Invertebrate Zoology class, and ALL of my research graduate and undergraduate students will also be interested in seeing this video!"
Stephen C. Weeks, Biology Dept., University of Akron

"A captivating video packed with solid information, presented in a beautifully straightforward and interesting way...I enthusiastically recommend this video to any audience interested in learning about large branchiopod crustaceans and their adaptation to the temporary pool habitat."
Denton Belk, Chair, Inland Water Crustacean Specialist Group, IUCN, Journal of Crustacean Biology

"Interesting, compelling and highly educational...beautifully and concisely delivered, and I highly recommend it for older children and adults."
Dr. Steven Morgan, Dept. of Environmental Science and Policy, UC-Davis

"This is a wonderful piece of science story telling with gorgeous film to accompany it."
International Wildlife Film Festival Juror

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Suspended Animation

"This film is a magnificent production and a powerful teaching tool. " Dr. Christopher Tudge, Biology Dept., American University

Links (The producers' web site) (A web site about primeval shrimps)

Awards and Festivals
Grand Prize, International Science Program Festival, Paris
Runner-Up, Best of Category, International Wildlife Film Festival
Silver WorldMedal, The New York Festivals
Best Documentary, RIENA Environmental Film Festival, France
Best Foreign Film, International Festival of Scientific Films, Palaiseau, France
First Prize, Millennium Scientific Film Festival, Szolnok, Hungary
Best of Category, Ekotopfilm, Slovakia
Special Jury Prize, International Scoop and News Festival, Angers, France
Special Jury Prize, International Festival of Insect Films, Narbonne, France
Bronze Plaque, Columbus International Film & Video Festival
Best of Category, Techfilm International Festival of Films on Science, Technology, & Art, Czech Republic
Amascultura International Scientific Film Festival, Portugal
Bodrum International Environmental Film Festival, Turkey
Ekofilm International Environmental Film & Video Festival, Czech Republic
Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival

Life Science
Marine Biology

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In the Company of Wild Butterflies
An intimate study of the secret lives of wild butterflies.

... more Reviews

"Who would have thought shrimp would be so beautiful and interesting to look at?"
International Wildlife Film Festival Juror

"A fascinating film in every way."
International Wildlife Film Festival Juror

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