70,000 fled Nevada flooded festival as hundreds of “dinosaur shrimp” crawl out from mud.

70,000 fled Nevada flooded festival as hundreds of “dinosaur shrimp” crawl out from mud.

The heavy rains that unexpectedly soaked the 70,000 attendees of the Burning Man festival also triggered the emergence of hundreds of three-eyed “dinosaur shrimp” from their long dormancy.

These small creatures, scientifically known as fairy shrimp, had been enclosed in thick shells for years until the rainstorms transformed the typically arid Nevada festival grounds into an ideal environment for their hatching. As festivalgoers sought refuge from the flooded desert, these crustaceans were observed emerging from the mud pits, where they will begin laying more eggs over the coming week.

Fairy shrimp, often referred to as “living fossils,” share similarities with ancient forms dating back over 500 million years to the Cambrian Period. Burning Man, a festival of self-expression held in the Black Rock Desert from August 27 to September 4, experienced an unusual late-summer storm that turned the event into a muddy mess, with participants wading through ankle-deep mud.

Unlike shrimps falling under the Decapoda genus, fairy shrimp, belonging to the Anostraca genus, lack shells on their heads or in front of their chests. Most fairy shrimp species have 11 pairs of legs, whereas modern shrimps typically have eight. They possess two eyes and a pit organ, a third eye commonly found in insects, which helps them detect changes in light and avoid predators.

Fairy shrimp have a brief lifespan of two to three months and inhabit seasonal bodies of water. Their eggs are known for their remarkable resilience, remaining dormant in the soil for several years before hatching in freshwater. These creatures can even survive being boiled. Originally inhabitants of the world’s oceans, they were forced into shallow freshwater habitats due to predators. They lay their eggs at the bottom of dry pools, remaining dormant until conditions become suitable for hatching, which was provided by the weekend’s rainstorm.

The rain brought more than half an inch, possibly close to one inch, of precipitation to parts of northwest Nevada, including the Burning Man festival area. During the event, the Pershing County Sheriff’s Office confirmed a single death, which occurred “during this rain event,” though details remained limited.

Despite the challenging circumstances, the CEO of Burning Man reassured attendees that there was no need for panic and described the situation as not requiring an evacuation. Amid the chaos, the festivalgoers made the most of it by organizing activities like slip-and-slides and other distinctive Burning Man-style experiences. Burning Man is held on the prehistoric Lake Lahontan, a dry lakebed known as the playa, covered in alkaline dust, which this year’s rain transformed into a muddy playground for music enthusiasts.

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