FLAGSTAFF, AZ (3TV/CBS 5 ) – This wet monsoon season brought out creatures never seen before by park rangers – three-eyed shrimp! They’re prehistoric and have biologists across the country talking. It all started out 100+ years ago when thousands of three-eyed shrimp eggs were laid, staying dormant. Fast forward to 2021, and tourists near Sunset Crater outside Flagstaff found the creatures. It’s an Arizona rarity you can’t make up.
“They are ancestors of similar-looking creatures that date to before the dinosaurs,” said Marge Ullmann, with National Parks Services. Ullman said it started in August when tourists were checking out the ball court at the Wupatki National Monument, a basin created about 900 years ago by the pueblo people. The tourists thought they saw tadpoles. But – they weren’t tadpoles. “It was actually these little prehistoric-looking triops,” said Ullmann.
Triops- which means “three eyes” in Greek are creatures that existed before dinosaurs. Ullmann said park rangers working at the national monument now have never seen this, but because the ball court got so much rain, it was enough water to settle there for a week and hatch these eggs from underground laid there long, long ago. “Definitely decades, maybe centuries,” said Ullmann. “This is such an unusual year. I mean this whole monsoon season.”
Ullman said the eggs are one of a kind. Not only can they live through extreme temperatures and drought, but they can do something else too. “If something comes along and eats them, they can survive the digestive system and get spread out in different places,” she said.
The bizarre sight is one Ullmann hopes they get to see again, but suspects hundreds of more eggs were laid this summer, which could hatch after the year 3000. These kinds of shrimp don’t live long – they only last about 90 days, so they’ve been dying off at the monument. Like sea monkeys, you can actually grow triops, but they aren’t the same species as the one found in the ground up at the monument.