WONKY TIMES

Three-Eyed ‘Dinosaur Shrimp’ Emerge After Arizona Monsoon

Triops are so uncommon that when tourists reported seeing them at one temporary, rain-filled lake the monument’s staff weren’t sure what to make of the critters.

Credit: L.Carter/NPS

When you think of Arizona, you probably imagine dust, dirt, cactus, vultures, and a dry heat that’s so intense it’ll make your skin crack like dehydrated mud.

However, it apparently rained so much this past year in the state that there are three-eyed “dinosaur shrimp” coming out of the ground and thriving to haunt your dreams forever.

Northern Arizona’s monsoon was so intense in the summer of 2021 that hundreds wonky, prehistoric-looking creatures have emerged from tiny eggs and began swimming around, aAccording to the officials at Wupatki National Monument. These tadpole-size critters called Triops “look like little mini-horseshoe crabs with three eyes.”

In an interview with Live Science, Lauren Carter, lead interpretation ranger at Wupatki National Monument, said that their eggs can lie dormant for decades in the desert until enough rainfall falls to create lakes that provide real estate and time for the hatchlings to mature and lay eggs for the next generation.

Holy moly, I wonder what else is lying dormant beneath the desert’s floor.

Credit: L.Carter/NPS

Triops are so uncommon that when tourists reported seeing them at one temporary, rain-filled lake the monument’s staff weren’t sure what to make of the critters.

“We knew that there was water in the ball court, but we weren’t expecting anything living in it,” said Carter. “Then a visitor came up and said, ‘Hey, you have tadpoles down in your ballcourt.’ I just scooped it up with my hand and looked at it and was like ‘What is that?’ I had no idea.”

Although, shortly after, something popped in her mind. Carter had previously worked at the Petrified Forest National Park in northeastern Arizona and remembered reports of Triops there. “And then I had to look it up,”

So, what are these dinosaur shrimp up to now?

“Triops males and females typically pair up to mate by sexual reproduction, but in times of scarcity, they have other means; these crustaceans are also hermaphrodites, meaning they have both male and female sex organs, and parthenogenetic, meaning females can produce offspring from unfertilized eggs, according to BioKids, a partnership between the University of Michigan School of Education, University of Michigan Museum of Zoology and the Detroit Public Schools.”

They can live up to 90 days, but it’s not looking good for this batch of Triops. The pond at the ball court lasted just three to four weeks and local birds had an all-you-can-eat dinner outing.

It’s unknown how many Triops managed to lay eggs before the lake dried up, but the rangers and visitors will have to wait for the next monsoon to find out.

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Matt Sterner

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