Tune In to California's Vernal Pools

Written By

Here's the story 
Of a shrimp named Branchi!
And the small pools they call their springtime home!
There are all kinds
Living all together
With features all their own!

Where's my vernal pool sitcom? Imagine the humor! The drama!  Vernal pools are like giant puddles that show up when there's enough springtime rain, and though these pools only exist for a few weeks to a few months, they're full of aquatic critters racing to hatch, find mates, and lay eggs before the pool dries up in summer. Whole lives play out over the course of weeks, and biologists from the Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office have been out surveying this year's vernal pools to find out what species are making an appearance.

When our biologists identify vernal pool species, they place them into sectioned white trays like this in order to get a clear look, as many species look similar at first. Some of the most unique finds are members of the class Branchiopoda, such as fairy shrimp, tadpole shrimp, and clam shrimp. Many species of Branchiopoda live exclusively in vernal pools and have unbelievably cool adaptations so that the eggs can survive even hundreds(!) of years in the dry dirt, waiting for the right conditions to hatch. These eggs can even survive being exposed to the vacuum of space! Marcia could never.

This year, our biologists identified several threatened and endangered species in the pools, including vernal pool fairy shrimp, vernal pool tadpole shrimp, conservancy fairy shrimp, and more! Given their sensitive nature, if you see what appears to be a seasonal vernal pool in a grassland, be sure to stay on trails and observe from a distance. The shrimp will thank you!

Story Tags

Aquatic animals
Aquatic environment
Endangered and/or Threatened species