The Arizona Daily Sun reports that hundreds of tiny three-eyed crustaceans called triops were recently found near the desert in the aftermath of a rare monsoon.
After years of drought drained the reservoirs and baked the land, finally the rain has come. With it wakes a league of beings alien to our time.
Go to Wupatki National Monument, and you may find them. Go to the great house built by Ancestral Puebloans and you may see them slither where rain collects in the ceremonial ball court. Formed in the days of yore, their wormlike tails writhe and boil the shallow water there. Beneath their shielded carapaces thrash dozens of segmented legs that claw onto muddy shores. When the sun strikes them, they devour the light through a crown of three black and beaded eyes. They are Triops.
This strange critters, which are sometimes called "dinosaur shrimp" even though they look more like mini-horseshoe crabs, have existed largely unchanged for over 70 million years. "When the first dinosaurs appeared, the Triops lineage was already 100 million years old," the Sun notes. But each individual creature only tends to live for about 90 days.
However, triop eggs can lay dormant for decades until rehydration prepares them to hatch, according to Central Michigan University — which is probably how these weird and rare crustaceans ended up in the Arizona desert. In an interview with Live Science, Lauren Carter, the lead interpretation ranger at Wupatki National Monument, theorized that the eggs may have been carried in on the backs of toads underground from the wetter environments were they were laid.
Hundreds of three-eyed 'dinosaur shrimp' emerge after Arizona monsoon [Laura Geggel / Live Science]
Triops awaken in Wupatki's ballcourt [Sean Golightly / AZ Daily Sun]