'Most ancient' species is alive and well in Scotland

Click to follow
The Independent Online

A rare shrimp that may be the most ancient animal species on Earth is alive and well in Scotland, scientists have discovered.

Two colonies of the tadpole shrimp, Triops cancriformis, were found at Caerlaverock on the Solway Coast of Dumfriesshire. Experts think there could be more "hidden" populations of the crustacean – a designated endangered species – elsewhere.

The tadpole shrimp may have the oldest pedigree of any living animal, scientists believe. Fossil finds show that the shrimp is virtually the same today as it was 200 million years ago, when the first dinosaurs evolved.

The shrimps are adapted to living in temporary water pools. When the water dries up, the adults die but leave behind eggs that can remain dormant for years until wet conditions return.

Understanding the animal's unusual lifestyle helped researchers from the University of Glasgow make the discovery announced today.

Mud thought to contain tadpole shrimp eggs was sampled from pools around Caerlaverock, dried, re-wetted and placed in small aquaria.

The scientists were startled to find a large shrimp swimming in one of the tanks within a couple of weeks.