Stars of Autumnwatch!

Conservation in action

This week, our babies will perform on Autumnwatch!

In 1995 I was asked by English Nature, now Natural England, to create an ‘insurance population’ of Tadpole Shrimps (Triops cancriformis) as part of the Species Recovery Programme. The shrimps were only found in one UK pond. A single pollution incident could have had a catastrophic effect on the population. So, I collected mud from the pond and shared it amongst colleagues. I scraped the mud from my boots into an old plastic chocolate box and from this mud (after drying and wetting) emerged a spectacular little shrimp! The Triops looked like he/she was running around in a waistcoat, just like Lewis Carroll’s white rabbit. I called him Smash after the popular dried mash potato (his sibling was called Noodles).

Autumnwatch starsEarlier this year I was asked by the Autumnwatch research team if I had any of these creatures to film. The shrimps and eggs I delivered to perplexed security guards at the BBC at 5am one September morning are all derived from that first little Smasher; Smash the 27th finally made it onto TV!

These spectacular freshwater shrimps are living fossils. They have survived unchanged since before the time of the dinosaurs. They live in pools that dry up, surviving as eggs, where any fish or other purely aquatic animals are likely to die off.

Art Inspired By Nature

triops in print Autumnwatch stars

This is a painting I did of the triops living in a pool created by a dinosaur footprint!


3 thoughts on “Stars of Autumnwatch!”

  1. We hatched some triops when the children were small (no idea which type) but they were fascinating to watch and got fairly large. I love the painting.

  2. Nice blog post. It was great to see the tadpole shrimps on Autumnwatch. I was lucky enough to be taken to see them a couple of times 2 years ago when they hatched in the one pond to photograph and film them.
    Is it correct that a schedule 5 license is not required to rear the captive bred eggs such as those you gave Autumnwatch?

    Love the picture at the end btw 🙂

    1. Hi Neil, thanks for the comment, they’re fascinating creatures aren’t they. That’s my understanding of the law, yes, but there can be conditions attached to licences to avoid unofficial, un-monitored releases and other confusion and illegal activity. The BBC shrimps were on breeding loan under the original agreement that livestock would be shared with competent institutions with a conservation research or educational remit which benefits the species or its habitat.

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