Thursday, 13 Jun 2024

Burning Man gets weirder as three-eyed 'dinosaur shrimp' wake up

Floods at Burning Man have woken up organisms that can lie dormant in the dried-out lake bed for decades.

Triops and fairy shrimp are small crustaceans that can survive extreme environmental conditions like drought.

They do this by laying eggs that can remain dormant for years until the right conditions are met. When it rains, the eggs hatch and the shrimp emerge to live in the newly formed water.

Triops are related to the oldest living creature, Triops cancriformis, which is why they are sometimes called ‘dinosaur shrimp’.

These creatures have two eyes and a pit organ, a third eye common among insects. The pit organ helps Triops detect changes in light, allowing them to see predators coming.

The shrimp lay their eggs in the sediment when the water dries up. These eggs are covered in a hard shell that protects them from the elements and can remain dormant for decades. They can survive extreme temperatures, high salinity, and lack of oxygen.

so not only will the people at burning man have to deal with ebola and acidic mud, when the playa at black rock gets wet these fairy shrimp hatch pic.twitter.com/OeR7V8n8YL

The Burning Man festival happens in Black Rock City, which is located on Black Rock Playa in Nevada. The playa is a dry lakebed that is home to a variety of extremophiles, including fairy shrimp.

When it rains, the playa fills with water and the fairy shrimp hatch. They live for a few weeks or months, depending on the species, and then they die when the water dries up.

Over the weekend, the US’s edgiest music festival was in chaos after floods turned the site to mud.

70,000 people are said to be stranded on the Nevada site, with festival organisers urging people to ‘conserve food, water, and fuel’ and to ‘shelter in a warm, safe space.’

They added that no one is able to leave or enter the site, with the gate and airport in and out of Black Rock City remaining ‘closed’.

While the festival is officially over, it’s just beginning for the Triops and fairy shrimp.

These creatures will start making eggs of their own in just over a week. However, they’ll need to do it before the weather turns, as any crustaceans caught wandering the sediment when it dries won’t fare as well as their eggs.

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