Hundreds of 'dinosaur shrimps' appeared in the middle of the Arizona desert: even park employees were confused - ForumDaily
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Hundreds of 'dinosaur shrimps' appeared in the middle of the desert in Arizona: even the staff of the park were confused

After a torrential summer rainstorm in northern Arizona, tiny eggs hatched from tiny eggs, hundreds of bizarre, prehistoric creatures that began to swim in a temporary lake amid the desert landscape, according to Wupatki National Monument officials. Live Science.

Photo: Shutterstock

These tadpole-sized creatures, called triopes, "look like little horseshoe crabs with three eyes," said Lauren Carter, lead inspector at Wupatki National Monument.

According to the University of Central Michigan, their eggs can lay dormant in the desert for decades until enough rain falls to create lakes that give them space and time to hatch and lay eggs for the next generation.

The appearance of the triops is so unusual that when tourists reported seeing them in the temporary lake, the staff of the monument did not know what to do.

“After the rainy season at the end of July, we knew that on the“ Ball Field ”(historical memo. - Prim. a row.) there is water, but we did not expect that there will be anything living in it, - said Carter. "Then a visitor came up and said that we had some tadpoles on the site."

At first she thought they were toads that live in underground burrows during the dry season and climb out during the rainy season to lay their eggs. Carter went to the site to investigate.

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“I just lifted it up with my hand, looked at it and thought:“ What is this? ” I had no idea, ”Carter said. But then the creature seemed familiar to her. Carter previously worked at Petrified Forest National Park in northeastern Arizona and recalled reports of triops there.

Triops - which in Greek means "three eyes" - is sometimes called "dinosaur shrimp" because of their long evolutionary history; the ancestors of these crustaceans evolved in the Devonian period (419–359 million years ago), and, according to Central Michigan University, since then their appearance has not changed much. It should be noted that dinosaurs appeared much later, during the Triassic period, which began about 252 million years ago.

However, triopes are not exactly the same as their ancestors, so they cannot be considered "living fossils."

“I don't like the term 'living fossils' because it causes confusion among the public and implies that they haven't changed at all,” Carter said. “But they have changed, they have evolved. It's just that outwardly they are very similar to those they were millions of years ago. "

According to the University of Central Michigan, there are two genera in the Triopsidae family, Triops and Lepidurus, which together include up to 12 species. The creatures found at the site may be Triops longicaudatus, a species found in short-lived freshwater ponds known as spring ponds in North, Central and South America, Carter said, but scientific analysis is needed to confirm this.

Once hatched, triopes can grow up to 1,5 inches (4 centimeters) long with a shield-like carapace that looks like a miniature helmet, according to Central Michigan University. Triopic eyes make them evil and wise at the same time - they have two large compound eyes with a black rim (like a dragonfly or a bee) and a small peephole, or simple eye, between them. Eyes are common among arthropods, according to the Society of Amateur Entomologists. They are full of simple photoreceptors that help these creatures detect light.

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In this case, the triops were lucky with a short but heavy rain period. Wupatki typically receives about 9 inches (22,9 cm) of rain per year, Carter said. In 2020, Wupatki had the driest summer with the lowest seasonal rain on record, with just 4 inches (10,2 cm) of rain. But in the last week and a half of July 2021, the region experienced heavy rain - almost 5 inches (12,7 cm).

During this time, the eggs hatched and after a few hours the little creatures were likely to begin their maturation. Like other crustaceans, they went through several stages to full maturity in just over a week.

Males and females usually mate through sexual reproduction, but they have other means; these crustaceans are also hermaphrodites, meaning they have both male and female reproductive organs, and parthenogenetic, meaning that females can produce offspring from unfertilized eggs.

Triops can live up to 90 days, Carter said, but the pond lasted only three to four weeks. Almost immediately he was noticed by local birds - crows and night hawks began to hunt for creatures.

It is not known how many triops managed to lay their eggs before the lake dried up. Rangers will have to wait until next rainy season to find out.

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