Hundreds of mini horseshoe crabs look-alikes emerged after the monsoon, a national park announced.
The three-eyed creatures are called Triops, Wupatki National Monument introduced. They are, however, more commonly known by a longer name, dinosaur shrimp, for they have been around the earth even before dinosaurs appeared.
Triops eggs can survive in a dried environment for decades in the desert, waiting for water to hatch. They bear a slight pink hue and are only an inch or two long.
They are frequently referred to as living fossils since their look has altered very little since the Triassic period.
“Triops are just another example of how even in the harshest conditions, life finds a way,” the national park said.
After a torrential summer downpour in northern Arizona, these tadpole-size creatures started to thrive. They began swimming around a makeshift lake in the monument’s ceremonial ballcourt, initially a creation of the Indigenous people of Wupatki.
Staff at the monument did not expect the presence of dinosaur shrimps after the rain.
“We knew that there was water in the ball court, but we weren’t expecting anything living in it,” Lauren Carter, lead interpretation ranger at Wupatki National Monument, told Live Science. “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,” Carter said. And as she looked it up, she knew the pond had hosted some no-ordinary creatures.
After they hatch, it takes the Triops over a week to grow up to 1.5 inches and start reproduction. These prehistoric crustacean creatures can only exist for 90 days—or until their water source runs dry.
Unfortunately, the Triops may not be given as much time for a smooth cycle to be repeated. Carter said the water in the pond could only last three to four weeks.
Already, she noted some local birds had paid some attention, with ravens and common nighthawks swooping down into the lake to devour the mini dinosaurs.
Officials of the park are not sure if the Triops can successfully leave behind any eggs before dying. The answer shall be revealed over the next monsoon.