Three-eyed “dinosaur shrimp” are stirring in the Nevada desert after flooding upended the Burning Man festival.
Triops and fairy shrimp are small crustaceans that can survive years lying dormant in drought conditions. They live in the ground in eggs until weather conditions such as floods can bring them to the surface, says IFL Science.
Nicknamed “dinosaur shrimp”, Triops are relatives of the oldest living creatures, Triops cancriformis, have two main eyes and a pit organ “third eye” that enables insects to detect changes in light and infrared waves.
Fairy shrimp have also resurfaced to join the mud party at Burning Man. Otherwise known as sea monkeys, they are translucent and are very good at withstanding salty environments.
Both of these crustaceans have surfaced due to the two to three months’ worth of rain that has poured down over the Burning Man festival over the weekend. Around 70,000 people were stranded on the playa as the desert’s arid floor turned into thick clay-like mud. Vehicles were unable to move through the churned-up mud, which forced the festival organisers to close the roads until the ground dries up.
The festival is located on Black Rock Playa in the Nevada desert, which is a dried-up lakebed home to lots of extremophiles laying dormant.
The crustaceans will live for weeks or months and will die when the water dries up from the desert ground again.
They will lay eggs within a week and will lay dormant until the next wave of extreme rain floods the playa.
One user on X (formerly known as Twitter) commented: “So not only will the people at Burning Man have to deal with [false claims of] ebola and acidic mud, when the playa at black rock gets wet these fairy shrimp hatch.”
Burning Man festival is ending on a somewhat disastrous note this year. One man has been found dead, according to authorities, not related to the weather extremities. A heavy downpour and flooding have left 70,000 people stranded in thick mud and being told to conserve their food by organisers. Finally, false claims of an Ebola outbreak circled the camp had to be debunked. Despite all this, organisers are pushing on with their finale to burn their effigy, as is tradition every year.