SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — There’s one creature you may not expect to find during a trip to the desert — shrimp, “fairy shrimp,” in particular.
Under the right conditions, fairy shrimp can be found in multiple Utah national parks, including Canyonlands and Arches. “There are three kinds of shrimp in Arches National Park (fairy shrimp, tadpole shrimp and clam shrimp) and they are all crustaceans. Their ancestors used to live in shallow seas that covered what we now call Arches National Park,” NPS states on their website.
You can reportedly find these crustaceans when the rainy season comes, filling dry potholes with water and creating a place for life to explode. Their eggs are able to survive during the dry season, making them uniquely resilient, and when spring rains come, they hatch!
And they’re not just found in Utah. These shrimp can be found throughout America’s Southwest, according to Wild About Utah. There are reportedly over 300 varieties of fairy shrimp, the most common being the Vernal Pool Fairy Shrimp. They can be found anywhere with ephemeral pools, or vernal pools, though most are found in California and Oregon.
Recently, the National Park Service reported that last month, tropical storm Hilary dropped 1-4 inches of rain on different parts of Joshua Tree National Park. Before the storm, the Barker Dam reservoir was bone dry, officials said.
After the storm, however, the reservoir reportedly filled with water, fairy shrimp, tadpoles, and aquatic insects.
“Shrimp in the desert? Yup. Fairy shrimp eggs can lie dormant for years in the soil of dry pools and potholes. Once they fill with water and the right conditions occur, these eggs can activate, hatch, grow, and mature. The adults will then deposit eggs before the pool dries up once again,” officials said.
Remember to leave their vernal pools alone! Ecosystems as small as these are easily affected by human contact.