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They’re older than dinosaurs, breathe through their feet and can lie dormant for decades.

The New Forest National Park is of vital importance to the survival of triops – a rare species of small crustaceans also known as tadpole shrimps.

Living in only two places in the UK (the other being Caerlaverock Wetland Centre in Dumfries, Scotland), these bizarre creatures can be found in just one of the New Forest’s estimated 1,000 ponds. The Forest’s wet and warm autumns provide the perfect hatching conditions in temporary ponds which disappear and reappear with changes in weather.

Pre-dating the dinosaurs by millions of years, these prehistoric crustaceans are one of the oldest species in the world, having been around for 360 million years. The eggs are resistant to drying out and dying, and are sometimes called living fossils as they can survive incredibly high temperatures and can still be viable after 27 years.

The Forest’s ponds form a significant part of its freshwater habitats, which host nationally rare freshwater plants and invertebrates, making the Forest one of the most important freshwater areas in Europe.

Image courtesy of John Cuthbert.

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