Hawaii home to rarely seen, prehistoric tadpole shrimp

It may not have been something as monstrous from Jurassic World, but a report made to our KHON2.com website over the weekend has led to the discovery of a rarely seen creature that looks absolutely prehistoric.

A Waianae man sent us a video (see above) of something that he found in a mud puddle near a beach in Makaha, and after some research, it appears that he came upon some fascinating examples of Triops longicaudatus, or tadpole shrimp.

The shrimp — considered one of the oldest animal species around, existing for millions of years — make their occasional appearance in the islands when conditions are right.

Sam Gon, senior scientist and cultural advisor for The Nature Conservancy of Hawaii, said that “Triops longicaudata has indeed been found in various localities across the Hawaiian archipelago, including the wetland inside of Diamond Head, flooded craters near Hanauma Bay, and temporary pools in Waianae.

“These ephemeral pool shrimp are fast growing and need to reach maturity before their temporary pool habitat dries up. The eggs they lay can dry completely in the mud of the pool, and in that dry state, they can be blown on the wind and laid down in other low areas that might flood during storms, restarting the cycle. Because the wind can transport the eggs, the species can be found around the world, and arrived in Hawaii via the jet stream, which carries dust from Asian deserts where Triops is also found. Thus it is an indigenous species, found naturally here, and elsewhere in the world.”

Before hatching, the durable eggs were probably in a state of rest called diapause. The eggs were dried out and development stopped before water was reintroduced to them. The rehydration of the eggs causes them to hatch and puts into motion the rapid development of the tadpole shrimp.

If the water source lasts long enough, the shrimp reach maturity in up to three weeks, when they will hatch a new batch of eggs.

The adult shrimp will die as the ponds and pools dry up, but the eggs can last for up to close to 25 years.

Back in February 2009, a meeting of the Kahoolawe Island Reserve Commission included discussion of the discovery of the small crustacean in a pond from the Kealialalo wetland.

“Samples from Kahoolawe were sent to an expert for DNA analysis to see if our isolated specimens were genetically distinct from others in the world,” Gon said, “and it was shown that the ones found here are genetically similar to those found elsewhere, a clear sign that the world’s winds bring them here frequently enough that they have not had a chance to evolve into something distinctly Hawaiian.”

Besides Hawaii, the tadpole shrimp can be found on the Mainland (except Alaska), Mexico and other Pacific islands.

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