Found on six continents, triops or tadpole shrimp are small crustaceans with an evolutionary superpower: Their eggs can survive long periods of dehydration thanks to diapause, a suspended state of development. This capability protects them from hatching when the environment isn’t favorable for survival. “They’re time travelers waiting for months, years, even decades in the sun-baked soil.”
This Deep Look episode documents their life cycle… and their taste for rice plants. From the video:
“Each spring, when rice farmers flood their fields and scatter their seeds they inadvertently create the perfect conditions for billions of tadpole shrimp to awaken.
“The eggs’ rugged outer shell, called the chorion, cracks open and the larva wiggles its way out of a translucent sac.”
“Tadpole shrimp aren’t really tadpoles, they aren’t even shrimp, though they are crustaceans whose ancestors evolved in the sea.
“The tiny larvae forage through the mud incessantly for any food they can dig up. They’re not picky.”
They can be trouble for young rice seedlings, but, via Wikipedia, “the species is considered a human ally against the West Nile virus, as the individuals consume Culex mosquito larvae. They also are used as a biological pest control in Japan, eating weeds in rice paddies.”
Related post-monsoon news from Wupatki National Monument on Facebook in August 2021: “We have shrimp in the ballcourt! Well, sort of… Triops are just another example of how even in the harshest conditions, life finds a way.”
Watch more crustaceans, more Deep Look, and a few other drought-adapted lifeforms, including:
• The Pond On My Window Sill, a DIY ecosphere experiment
• Why does the Mexican jumping bean jump?
• A fish, a frog, and a lizard that can survive drought
• Superbloom: How Death Valley Springs to Life
• Can Namib Desert beetles help us solve our drought problems?
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