Wupatki National Monument has reported that hundreds of strange, prehistoric-looking animals hatched from small eggs and began swimming around a human-made lake on the desert terrain during a severe summer rainstorm in northern Arizona.
These tadpole-sized animals are called Triops, they look like little mini-horseshoe crabs with three eyes. Their eggs can remain without hatching in the desert for many years until enough rain falls to form lakes, allowing the hatchlings to develop and produce eggs for the following generation.
Triops are so rare that when travelers reported seeing them at a temporary, rain-filled pool within the monument’s ceremonial ball court, a circular walled structure 105 feet (32 meters) across the monument.
The caretaker around there thought if toads, which live in underground tunnels during the dry season, had come upon the surface to lay eggs during the rain. They went to the ball court, which was created by the people of Wupatki, for them to explore.
They just took it in their hand and stared at it wondering what it is. Triops is a Latin word for “three eyes”. It is mostly referred to as “dinosaur shrimp” because of the way they have evolved through history. These species originated during the Devonian period which was around 400 million years ago, the way they look has only changed a bit since then. Triops, aren’t the same as their older generations, therefore they cannot be called living fossils.
The generation of Triopsidae is of two types, Triops and Lepidurus, which both have up to 12 species. Triops longicaudatus is a species that are mostly found in freshwater ponds mostly like vernal pools in North, Central, and South America. These might be the creatures that are found at the Wupatki ball court, but an investigation is needed to prove that.
Triops can grow up to 1.5 inches long after they hatch, they have a shield-like tiny helmet. They have two big, black-rimmed compound eyes and a tiny simple eye, between them, giving them a fierce and smart look.
Arthropods have the same kind of ocellus eyes, which have light-sensing receptors. The Triops in Wupatki National Monument had a great rainstorm. It is estimated that Flagstaff, Arizona which is 50km away from the monument receives about 9 inches of rain every year.
According to a life cycle report, the Triops’ eggs hatched during the rainstorm and the tiny animals probably started to feed within hours. Like other crustaceans, they completed evolved over a week.
Triops, both males, and females get together to mate by sexual reproduction, but if there’s nobody available, they can have other options. These crustaceans are also the type of hermaphrodites, meaning they have both male and female sex organs, and are also parthenogenetic, meaning females can produce children without even having fertilized eggs.
Triops can live around 90 days, but the lake was temporary which only lasted for three to four weeks. It was noticed very quickly by the birds living around, with ravens and common nighthawks which were trying to eat them up from the pond.
Nobody knows how many eggs were laid by the Triops before the lake went dry. Researchers will have to wait till the next rainy season to study about them.