Hundreds of bizarre three-eyed “dinosaur shrimp” have surfaced in Arizona after heavy summer rain, national park officials say.
The prehistoric crustacean creatures — officially called triops — were discovered in a section of the Wupatki National Monument last month.
Triops, which are often referred to as dinosaur shrimp, have three eyes, are slightly pink in color and are only an inch or two long.
They are believed to have hatched after a late-July monsoon caused a lake to temporarily form inside the monument’s normally dried-up ceremonial ball court.
The creatures can lay eggs that remain dormant for decades until enough water is present for them to hatch.
It isn’t clear how long the recently-hatched eggs had been in the ground.
“They have a very specialized adaptation that allows their eggs to survive being completely dry for long periods of time,” Lauren Carter, a Wupatki National Monument ranger, said in a Facebook post.
“These little horseshoe crab looking critters lay in wait until a pool of water remains long enough for the eggs to hatch.
“Then they gorge themselves, grow to adulthood in just over a week, breed, and lay more eggs to repeat the cycle.”
Triops can only live up to 90 days – or whenever their water source dries up before that.
In this case, the water inside the ball court dried up within a week.
Officials said there’s no way to tell if the triops were able to lay any eggs prior to dying.
Monument officials were first alerted to the rare hatchings after visitors reported seeing what they thought were tadpoles in the water.
The officials initially thought underground toads could have been driven above ground due to the heavy rains.
“Upon investigation by rangers we found something entirely different and somewhat unexpected,” Carter said.
Triops are often referred to as living fossils because they haven’t really changed over time since they evolved over 350 million years ago, according to researchers at Central Michigan University.
They can be found in seasonal depressional wetlands in Africa, Australia, Asia, South America, Europe, and some parts of North America.