Tadpole Shrimp Are Coming For Your Rice | Deep Look

From Deep Look.

Tadpole shrimp are neither tadpoles nor shrimp. They’re time-traveling crustaceans called triops. Their eggs can spend years – even decades – frozen in time, waiting to hatch. When California rice growers flood their fields, they create the perfect conditions for hordes of these ravenous creatures to awaken.

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Each spring, hungry hordes of tadpole shrimp find their way into the rice fields of California’s Central Valley and go to town munching on the young seedlings.

Tadpole shrimp aren’t really tadpoles or shrimp, but they are crustaceans whose ancestors once lived in the sea.

“They look like tiny horseshoe crabs,” says Ian Grettenberger, an integrative pest management researcher at UC Davis.

“It’s obvious when rice fields have lots of tadpole shrimp in them, because they stir up the mud making the water look a bit like chocolate milk. There will also be shrimp zooming around, many upside down at the surface, popping up for a few seconds before disappearing back into the murkiness."

So how did crustaceans, whose ancestors lived in the sea, end up in these freshwater rice paddies?

Turns out, they’ve been waiting in the dry soil. Tadpole shrimp eggs can survive being dried out for months, years, even decades. When the water returns, they’re ready to hatch.

— What do tadpole shrimp eat?
Tadpole shrimp aren’t picky eaters. They eat algae, floating debris, and whatever plants and insects they are big enough to eat. In California, tadpole shrimp are especially fond of young rice seedlings, which makes them an agricultural pest.

— How do tadpole shrimp eggs survive getting dried out?
Tadpole shrimp evolved to live in temporary freshwater ponds, created by seasonal rains. Many of those pools dry up completely each year. Adult tadpole shrimp can’t survive drying out, but their eggs have a rugged outer layer called a chorion that protects the eggs from desiccation.

— Can you raise tadpole shrimp at home?
Much like brine shrimp, also called sea monkeys, you can buy tadpole shrimp eggs, which will hatch when put in water.

—+ Find additional resources and a transcript on KQED Science:
https://www.kqed.org/science/1977074/tadpole-shrimp-are-coming-for-your-rice

—+ More great Deep Look episodes:

Once a Spawn a Time: Horseshoe Crabs Mob the Beach | Deep Look
https://youtu.be/iYvWssvg1YU

For Pacific Mole Crabs It’s Dig or Die | Deep Look
https://youtu.be/tfoYD8pAsMw

From Drifter to Dynamo: The Story of Plankton | Deep Look
https://youtu.be/jUvJ5ANH86I

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