Where the hell were these things when I was a kid? Triops are small crustaceans in the class branchiopoda, that grow quickly and massively, reaching three inches or longer at full size. Their external appearance has apparently not changed since the appearance of Triops cancrifromis, 220 million years ago in the Triassic Period. This may make the Triops, also called tadpole shrimp or shield shrimp, the oldest living animal species on earth.
An adorable triops eating a piece of corn. This playful behavior in juveniles has a very practical application in adulthood, when Triops must lay eggs in struggling humans’ stomachs.
Although a few Triops’ populations are evenly divided between the male and female sex, the vast majority are entirely female and reproduce through parthenogenesis. In this case, that means that the egg and embryo grow without fertilization from a male. However, all female Triops populations aren’t the harmonious societies NOW might have you believe. Cannibalization of young Triops is common and even freshly molted adult Triops often find themselves the victims of their not so freshly-molted brethren.
Learn more about Triops from Stuart Halliday, a Scotsman who has devoted himself to the ungrateful critters. You can purchase your very own prehistoric beasty from American Science Surplus. Finally, thanks to our friends at Shinka3 (Japanese animal blog) for bringing the critters to our attention.