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Friday, May 10, 2013

Fairy and Tadpole Shrimp on the Berry Prairie???

This post is written by our guest author, Lusha Tronstad.  Lusha is the Invertebrate Zoologists for the Wyoming Natural Diversity Database, and is pretty much the Bug Queen of Wyoming.  Her office has curtains featuring beetles, her favorite pair of shoes are her waders, and she put shrimp on the green roof.  She's the coolest.  Check out the Wyoming Natural Diversity database here.


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Shrimp on the Green Roof? Waaa?

Did you know that there are shrimp species native to Wyoming? Landlocked Wyoming? It's true - fairy and tadpole shrimp are two of our native crustaceans, and they have unique life histories.


An example of a rock pond
They live in temporary habitats, such as rock pools, pond, playas, or any other standing water without fish. Fairy and tadpole shrimp tend to live in temporary pools where predators are less abundant, because ducks and fish love to eat them. They grow rapidly (~6 weeks) and produce up to ~220 eggs per individual. The eggs are encysted (held inside a sac with a membrane) to protect them from drought, freezing, and heat. The eggs are dispersed through the landscape by wind. If the encysted eggs lands in the perfect spot and that perfect spot fills with water for the right amount of time, then the eggs hatch and the cycle starts over again.

Conservation Focus

Fairy and tadpole shrimp are considered species of greatest conservation need (SGCN) by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. Not much is known about these taxa in Wyoming, so the Wyoming Natural Diversity Database (WYNDD) is studying these animals. In the last 2 years we collected 6 species of fairy shrimp and 2 species of tadpole shrimp at several locations throughout the state.

What do they look like?


Fairy shrimp (photo by Lusha Tronstad)
Fairy shrimp are crustaceans in the order Anostraca. Individuals are usually ¼ to 1 inch in length; however, one species can reach nearly 7 inches in length. Fairy shrimp usually have 11 pairs of legs that they use to swim and feed with. These invertebrates appear to swim upside down (legs up)! Some fairy shrimp live in waters with high concentrations of salts, such as brine shrimp. Did you ever raise sea monkeys when you were growing up? Then you have reared fairy shrimp!


Tadpole shrimp (photo by Lusha Tronstad)
Tadpole shrimp are crustaceans in the order Notostraca. Individuals are usually 1 to 4 inches in length and have a shield covering their abdomen. Their compound eyes are quite noticeable siting together on the top of the shield. Many people say they look like miniature horseshoe crabs or tadpoles of frogs. Tadpole shrimp have many pairs of legs that they use for movement and feeding. These animals are referred to as living fossils, because they have changed little in the last 250 million years (since the Carboniferous period in geologic history). 


We are using the bird bath below to mimic a rock pond - if the shrimp will hatch, it will happen soon!  Check back to see what happens.





Written by Lusha Tronstad, WYNDD


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