Hundreds of crustaceans found in local mud puddle

Boys like to play around mud puddles, and Tyler Tucker, 9, and his friend Eric Boblett, 8, are no exception.

But last week they found more that just mud in the large puddle near their home.

"When we were walking down by the railroad tracks I saw something in the puddle.

When I picked it up it pinched me," Tucker said.

"We went back to Eric's house and I called my mom and told her we found these things that look like little sting rays."

The boys grabbed a net and a bowl and went back to the puddle to catch some of the "sting rays."

"What they found were phyllopods," said Palo Christi School teacher Sharon Hackley.

Hackley said she became interested in the crustaceans after another Palo Christi teacher had gone to the puddle to collect some to show students in his classroom.

"The eggs are preserved in the mud.

When it rains the eggs hatch.

They are usually found in dry lake beds.

It is an oddity.

You don't see them as much anymore because people have built houses, and the ground has been plowed under," she said.

Art Fuller, game specialist at the Arizona Game and Fish Department, said there are several species of this type of freshwater crustacean in Kingman, including brine shrimp, tadpole shrimp and horseshoe crabs.

He said that crustaceans thrive in a "vernal pool," a place that gets seasonal water and it is not surprising that the phyllopods were found in the puddle.

"The eggs dry during the summer and can survive up to 100 degree temperatures.

In some places they have survived up to 15 years without hatching.

The eggs can hatch in less than four days," Fuller said.

When the eggs are dry they can be blown away by the wind, or can become attached to the legs of birds that wade in mud.

"They can move from pond to pond that way," he said.

"They eat decaying vegetation and other invertebrates that are in the mud."

Fuller said he doesn't think the crustaceans that the boys found are good to eat, but they are worth studying.

When Fuller was a youngster he had a Triops Kit that included a tank, dry eggs, algae, and other organisms and materials needed to create an instant live aquatic ecosystem for study.

He said the kits can be found in a toy shop or ordered through the Internet.

Although the mud puddle has already dried out since last Thursday, Eric still has two of the phyllopods in a tub on his front porch.

Eric's father Jimmy Boblett said the family looked up the creatures on the Internet.

"They definitely look like the tadpole shrimp we saw," he said.

"I don't know how long they will last in the tub.

Maybe we can put them out in the yard and wait for the next good rain."