• Elly Groh

What is a Triops?

Triops Longicaudatus (tadpole shrimp)

If you have been on the internet late at night watching randomly recommended videos, you might have seen videos of an alien-looking creature in a fish tank digging up sand. This is what they call a Triops, more commonly known as a tadpole shrimp.

They are native to Africa, Australia, Asia, South America, and Europe in seasonal pools of water. These arthropods have been around for about 300 million years with little change to their appearance. According to Mental Floss, "they appear to be almost identical physically to their fossilized ancestors," giving them the title of a living fossil.

There are more than a dozen known species of the tadpole shrimp. All of them have two distinct features: three eyes which together provide them with limited vision and give them their name "Triops," and their many legs - which may appear to be in the millions but actually only number at 140. They use their legs for many purposes like moving food to their mouths, carrying eggs, swimming - and surprisingly - breathing. The legs that help with breathing have "leaf-like extensions ... that function similarly to gills."

What this animal is most known for is its eggs and how it can survive for decades without water. Since they live in small puddles and mud, the tadpole shrimp's habitat tends to dry out over time. As a result, the creature adapted to be able to lay eggs which could survive through extreme hot and cold temperatures, radiation, stomachs of migrating birds and other animals, and - weirdly enough - even the vacuum of space.

These are truly strange and amazing animals.

#tadpoleshrimp #livingfossil #weirdanimals