Cape Ann Vernal Pond Team

Biologist Nathan Mineo

Did You Know...?

Branchinecta Raptor

Written by Nathan Mineo 
Reprinted from the 2009 Cape Ann Vernal Pond Team Newsletter
Photograph by Cheryl Briscoe
Did you know that a strange new species of fairy shrimp was recently discovered in Idaho? Idaho National Guard biologists Jay Weaver and Dana Quinny found it in only two desert playas (temporary lakes). Called Branchinecta raptor, this three-and-a-half-inch leviathan, which is more than twice as large as the fairy shrimp we see around here, preys on other fairy shrimp and small invertebrates. Since it lives in very murky water, its eyes aren’t very developed. So “raptor” has adapted with an arsenal of hooks, combs, spines, and other projections that help detect prey in the murky water. It will swim back and forth grasping at anything it encounters with its large, hooked front legs. Finding food can be difficult at times, so it will hold onto its dead or disabled prey while continuing to hunt. Raptor’s life cycle is much like any other fairy shrimp: the eggs hatch when the lake fills, it feeds and grows for a few days or weeks, it dies when the water gets too warm, and when the lake dries, desiccant-resistant cysts (eggs) remain on the bottom to start the cycle over in a few years when the lake fills again.

Source: Quinny, Dana. “Army National Guard discovers a tough little shrimp.
(Jay Weaver and Dana Quinny discover the Branchinecta raptor).”
Endangered Species Bulletin. 31.2 (July 2006): 20.

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