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Critter Spotlight: Fairy Shrimp: Anostraca

Good Morning Watershed Explorers,

Today's critter spotlight is about a really special, tiny creature known as the fairy shrimp. Fairy shrimp can only live in vernal pools or other temporary wetland areas. Vernal pools are small bodies of water that form when the snow melts in the spring. Vernal pools last just a few months and due to their temporary nature, they do not house fish. This becomes very important for creatures that need water to lay their eggs, but whose eggs are eaten by fish. Vernal pools provide excellent habitats for fairy shrimp, salamanders, and frogs.

Fairy shrimp only live for about six weeks. They are very small, the largest only measure an inch to an inch and a half long. A really crazy fact about fairy shrimp is that their eggs need to dry out completely and freeze in order to hatch the following spring. Some have been found to last 15 years prior to hatching. AMAZING!!!

We already talked about the habitat of fairy shrimp, but what do these critters eat? Fairy shrimp feast on microscopic animals called zooplankton. They will also eat algae and detritus, which is other tiny bits of waste or debris. Fairy shrimp are an integral part of the vernal pool food chain, they eat many smaller organisms and become food for large ones such as water birds and amphibians.

Fairy shrimp are endangered in large part due to habitat loss. If you are interested in learning more about fairy shrimp, or finding out how to help these important creatures, follow the links below.

Happy Exploring Watershed Explorers,

Mrs. Morissette

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