Hundreds of Alien-Looking Crustaceans Swim in Temporary Lake Following Arizona Monsoon
Hundreds of three-eyed critters have emerged in Arizona following a torrential summer downpour that awakened them from their potentially decades-long slumber.
As reported by Live Science, the tadpole-sized creatures, officially called Triops, were discovered by visitors of the Wupatki National Monument in northern Arizona in late July. The crustaceans were spotted swimming around in a makeshift lake at the monument’s ceremonial ball court, having been created by a monsoon that hit the desert landscape.
While it’s unclear exactly how long the critters had been cocooned at the location, their eggs can lie dormant in dry conditions for decades until enough water is present to rehydrate the embryos for the hatchlings to mature and eventually reproduce, repeating the cycle and laying eggs for the next generation, according to Central Michigan University.
Lauren Carter, lead interpretation ranger at Wupatki National Monument, described the Triops as looking like “little mini-horseshoe crabs with three eyes.” As you can see from the photo above, the peachy pink critters have elongated undulous tails that peek out of their arching shell-like torsos, with a trio of eyes located at the front of the translucent carapace.
Triops translates to “three eyes” in Greek, though the crustaceans have also earned another moniker due to their long evolutionary history. Sometimes referred to as “dinosaur shrimp,” fossil records indicate that these bizarre creatures evolved over 350 million years ago during the Devonian period, an era that spawned a remarkable variety of fish, per NatGeo.
Live Science notes that Triops can live up to 90 days, however, many of the critters at the Arizonian lake had their life expectancy cut short. Carter said the pond at the ball court lasted just three to four weeks, with local ravens and common nighthawks taking notice of the critters and swooping down to pluck them from the water.
It’s unknown how many Triops managed to lay eggs while occupying the rain-filled lake, but the next time wet weather is forecast the rangers will no doubt take interest in them, just like the scientists who discovered a new species of gelatinous creature that live in the depths of the sea or the researchers who created the bionic moon jellyfish last year.
Adele Ankers is a freelance writer for IGN. Follow her on Twitter.