It’s been a wild season of bushfires, dust storms and torrential rain, and you’d be forgiven if you thought nothing good could come out of that combination. But like a phoenix rising from the ashes, a plethora of “shield shrimp” have flourished in the rain-filled claypans across outback South Australia.
I bet you’re wondering, what the absolute fuck is a shield shrimp? Don’t worry, I asked myself the same question when I saw these weird creatures that I have expertly named “dust stingrays.”
Conservation research organisation Arid Recovery took to Facebook to share the good news that the shield shrimp are thriving.
These tiny stingray/vacuum-looking creepy crawlies are called Triops Australiensis but are commonly known as shield shrimp. And they’re popping up all over rural South Australia in what I can only assume is Mother Nature’s gift for making it through a hellish summer.
The tiny crustaceans lie dormant in the dust of claypans for up to 7 years until extensive rain fills the area and allows them to breed and flourish. The dried-out eggs are carried by the wind and have been seen all over outback Australia, including on top of Uluru.
“Populations of these peculiar creatures explode following rain, and they can be found teeming in the temporary pools and water filled clay pans,” Queensland Museum says.
Basically, their sole purpose from the moment they’re brought to life is to eat as much as possible and breed like rabbits before the shallow pools dry up again.
I still can’t decide whether I want my own baby shield shrimp as a pet, or whether I want to kill them all.
These alien-looking creatures are technically crustaceans, but look much more like sea monkeys than they do crabs or prawns.
They’re basically a living fossil, with no significant genetic changes in the last 250 million years. So, you’re basically looking at a damn velociraptor here.
According to Australian Geographic, these ugly little babies can grow up to 7.6cm long and have approximately 60 tiny legs to propel them through the shallow waters of the claypans in which they inhabit.
To make them even cooler, they use these 60+ legs to breathe, which is considerably more interesting than our boring human lungs.
Why can’t humans breathe out of our legs? I feel incredibly ripped off by this genetic flaw.
Shield shrimp are officially my favourite animal. Let’s kick ScoMo out of office and let the dust stingray bebes rule the country.Image: Arid Recovery / Melissa Jensen