Found Alive, the Amazing Shrimp That's 220million Years Old; It's Triassic Park - Search in Scottish Pool Yields Prehistoric Survivor

Daily Mail (London), October 6, 2004 | Go to article overview

Found Alive, the Amazing Shrimp That's 220million Years Old; It's Triassic Park - Search in Scottish Pool Yields Prehistoric Survivor


Byline: KIZZY TAYLOR

THEY have been around since before the days of the dinosaurs.

But after 220million years of thriving in Scottish waters, the last tadpole shrimp north of the Border died out half a century ago.

So when a nature expert stumbled across a live colony swimming around happily in a Scots pool, he could hardly believe his eyes.

Dr Larry Griffin said yesterday: 'It is a dream find. I was digging around in a pool with my net and I pulled out some of these beasties which I hadn't seen before.' Dr Griffin had been looking for natterjack toads in the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust nature reserve at Caerlaverock, Dumfriesshire, when he came across about 100 of the creatures.

'They looked like small horseshoe crabs so I raced back and started doing research to find out what exactly they were.

'The hairs on my neck stood on end as I realised that they were supposed to be extinct in Scotland.

' It is a dream find and is like coming across a living fossil in your own back yard. It was really exciting when I realised that I was on to something different.' Until now, it had been thought that the last colonies of the adult tadpoles in Britain were to be found in the New Forest in Hampshire.

The last Scottish colony, also on the Solway, not far from Caerlaverock, was believed to have been lost in 1948, just after World War II.

Experts at the Natural History Museum, London, are now examining the shrimps to find out where they came from and how long they have been at Caerlaverock.

They believe it is possible that eggs have been dormant in the mud for decades, waiting for the right conditions to come to life.

Dr Griffin said: 'The eggs could have been waiting in the mud for years and we would never have known.

'We have endured freak weather conditions this year, especially at the end of August.

'We are sure that the torrential rain and uncommonly high temperatures-were exactly what they needed to hatch. Now we need to do more research to try to discover if these are the only ones or if there are other colonies hatching.

'We also want to try to get these critters' DNA checked out to cross reference them with fossils.' Fossilised remains prove that tadpole shrimps were around 220million years ago in the Triassic period - predating the dinosaurs. Brian Morell, manager of the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust at Caerlaverock, said: 'This is a major discovery and we are all really excited.

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