Millions of these alien-like desert crustaceans are slithering out of the mud in the Australian desert. The little creatures are a remnant of the Triassic period and are commonly known as shield shrimp, or more scientifically Triops australiensis.

Image: Northern Territory Parks and Wildlife

Shield shrimp belong to a class of crustaceans called branchiopoda because of their lobed feet that have gill plates for breathing. This living fossil has beautifully adapted to the harsh Australian climate—its eggs can remain dormant underground for up to seven years, patiently waiting for heavy rains. When it finally rains, millions of these little guys emerge from the mud to procreate and continue the life cycle.

Image: Northern Territory Parks and Wildlife

These pictures were posted online by Nick Morgan. He wanted to know what the strange creatures are so he shared his pictures with the Northern Territory Parks and Wildlife for some answers. Here’s their explanation:

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.

Millions of these creatures have hatched to feast and lay eggs for the duration of the rainy season. Their eggs are very hardy and can survive the desert heat and the low night temperatures to eventually hatch during the next heavy rains. It may be a boring life but shield shrimp have survived like this for 250 million years, and they will probably have the last laugh after the human race kills itself in a nuclear war.

Image: Wikipedia

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