Named after the formidable carapace that shields its head and upper body, T. australiensis can grow up to 7.6 cm long, and it uses its long, segmented tail and mass of 60 or so legs to propel itself through shallow water.
The crustaceans known as shield shrimp have cropped up in temporary pools and water-filled clay pans across Central Australia after wild weather lashed the region over Christmas and forced the closure of Uluru.
Michael Barritt, an expert on living fossils, told ABC: “These are eggs that can dry out and deal with all the kinds of extreme temperatures that inland Australia gets, including high temperatures and low temperatures at night in wintertime.
“All these eggs get blown all over the place. Then when sufficient summer rain comes along, they hatch and go crazy trying to feed as much as they can on micro-organisms and bacteria in the water.
“They want to be able to lay their eggs back into the drying surface before the waterhole dries out.”
Northern Territory Parks and Wildlife explains:
Parks and Wildlife follower Nick Morgan sent in these photos of a mysterious bug he encountered near Alice Springs. It’s a type of crustacean known as a Shield Shrimp, and there is one species in Australia, Triops australiensis.
The shrimp are well adapted to desert conditions as their eggs will remain dormant for years until there is significant rain, which triggers a population explosion.
Now is the best time to see the Shield Shrimp as the recent heavy rain in the Central Australia region has brought them to life.