Miniature pink critters basically look like Pokémon, and also evolved from eggs like them.
Tourists visiting Wupataki National Monument, a Puebloan site in Arizona, recently stumbled upon some unexpected fellow visitors – hundreds of pre-dinosaur-era three-eyed shrimp. The tiny critters probably infested a ball court in the park after the monsoon filled in.
Formally named tripes, the gentle animals that roamed the earth millions of years ago literally have a third eye. It’s smack in the middle of his two compound buggies that move straight ahead. The creatures, also called tadpole shrimp, are an inch or two long and their peachy pink bodies have a crest-shaped torso that locks into a menacing tail.
They’re creepy, yet somehow adorable. They basically look like Pokemon.
It is not uncommon to find some of these individuals in the wild, and some pet stores even sell them, claiming that tripes are low-maintenance friends – they only live about 90 days. But it’s certainly new for tourists to see hundreds of alien-like creatures at a national monument site.
Pueblo farmers fled from modern Flagstaff to the area of Wupataki National Monument after the Sunset Crater volcano eruption 900 years ago. Within the area, now protected by the state and open for tourism, there is a circular ball court that used to be the site where cultural ideas were exchanged. The diameter of the court is approximately 105 feet (32 m).
In late July, however, these whimsical shrimp filled the former intellectual meeting place. Lauren Carter, Lead Interpretation Ranger at Wupataki National Monument “Just Scooped Up With This [her] hand and looked at him and ‘what is that?’ as it was,” she said in a statement.
Presumably, Arizona’s late July monsoon caused the triple-eyed shellfish to suddenly rise into the triple digits. These shrimp can lay eggs which lie dormant until enough water is present. Monsoon rains would have easily activated a swarm of their already laid eggs.
Carter said that he first learned of the presence of critters in a rainwater pond by a tourist walking through the park. Eventually, she and the rest of the staff concluded that these strange-looking shrimp could be freshwater versions of Triops called Triops longicadatus. They note that further scientific analysis is needed to confirm that hypothesis.
The extraordinarily microscopic creature – visually, that is – was clearly seen by birds in the area and immediately turned into an avian diner. But who’s to say they didn’t lay a few more eggs at their chosen breeding ground in Vuptaki?