Wupatki National Monument in Arizona received some unexpected visitors when hundreds of aquatic creatures were found to be inhabiting pools of water left by a period of heavy rainfall which passed through the desert region. The ancient three-eyed shrimp were mistaken for tadpoles initially, though it soon became apparent that the rain had brought out a species of Triops taking advantage of the unexpected wetness.
Unexpected creatures emerge after desert rains
These creatures produce eggs which can remain in a dormant state for decades in a desert environment like Arizona, emerging when they sense that there is enough water to make a home for their brief lives.
The Triops which emerged at Wupatki likely used the unusually heavy rainfall to produce eggs which will wait for a similar opportunity to emerge and carry out the same cycle again.
While an appearance in the desert of Arizona is very unusual, the genus Triops is known for taking advantage of temporary bodies of water.
They are sometimes described as “living fossils” because they have changed so little in appearance from ancestors which lived hundreds of millions of years ago.
The creatures resemble tiny horseshoe crabs externally. The name Triops comes from the Greek for “three eyes” and refers to one of their distinguishing features.
They usually reproduce sexually but under certain circumstances they are capable of asexual reproduction as hermaphrodites.
Triops are useful creatures to have around anywhere they happen to emerge. The tiny crustaceans will eat almost anything, including mosquito eggs and algae.
This is one of several traits which makes them ideal low-maintenance pets for anyone who doesn’t want a long term commitment.
Because eggs can survive for so long in a dormant state they are often sold in a dried form at pet shops. Once placed in a suitable container filled with water they will begin to hatch as normal.
Because they only live for up to 90 days, Triops are a minor commitment for the hesitant pet owner who wants to watch something grow and swim without putting too much thought into it.
The Arizona population did not last as long as they might have in other circumstances. Birds noticed them after a few weeks and began to eat large numbers of them.
Wupatki National Monument will not know how many eggs they managed to lay in their short lives until their offspring begin to emerge after the next period of exceptional rainfall.