In the arid inland region of Australia, rain brings life and one of the strangest creatures that appear, are the Shield Shrimp (Triops australiensis).
Hatching from eggs into nauplii (the first larval stage of many crustaceans) in the temporary pools of water, this strange desert crustacean rapidly develop into adults with a formidable carapace (a carapace is a dorsal / upper section of the exoskeleton or shell in certain animal such as crustaceans among others) that shields its head and upper body. With about 60 legs and a segmented tail that help it propel through shallow water, the shield shrimp grows to about 7.6 cm.
These crustaceans can be found throughout Central Australia, starting life in ephemeral water ways and claypans. The eggs of the Shield Shrimp can survive long periods without rain, in arid, drought conditions, being blown around by wind, just waiting for the next big rains.
Once rain falls, the egg hatches and the shield shrimp grow quickly, feeding off rotting vegetation and other detritus. Once the water has evaporated, the Shield Shrimps die, leaving behind just their eggs, waiting for the next cycle. Shield Shrimps have even been found on the summit of Uluru.
- Scientific classification
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Arthropoda
- Subphylum: Crustacea
- Class: Branchiopoda
- Order: Notostraca
- Family: Triopsidae
- Genus: Triops
- Species: T. australiensis
- Binomial name: Triops australiensis