And What About Those Fairy Shrimp?

Published in the Aug. 20, 1993, Sacramento Army Depot Intercom

Home of the fairy shrimp

Home of the Sacramento Army Depot’s “fairy shrimp” — a shallow depression between abandoned railroad tracks and an industrial thoroughfare.

A few weeks ago, curious about the rare species I’d heard was on depot, I called the Environmental Office. A representative there quickly pointed out there are no fairy shrimp on the depot. Fairy shrimp is a catchy, easily remembered name, but, as Robert Lodato patiently explained, “They are really California linderiella.”

California linderiella are small invertebrates that have been proposed for inclusion on the endangered species list of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “Small” means 11 to 27 mm, a measurement that comes out to less than 1/16 of an inch according to my calculations.

(How did anyone even know the California linderiella were out there? I wondered. I envisioned Sherlock Holmes with a magnifying glass the size of the Hubble telescope.)

Lodato humored my request to view the home of the “fairy shrimp,” even suggesting that I don waders when I went shrimp hunting. I quickly discovered upon arrival at the “vernal puddle” that the waders would protect me from star thistle stickers, not voracious, man-eating, development-stopping California linderiella.

California linderiella inhabit vernal pools, the small bodies of water that form in non-draining areas. Vernal pools normally form in undisturbed grasslands, but they also are found anywhere the natural level of the land has been disturbed, such as in drainage ditches and along railroad embankments.

For a possibly endangered species, the California linderiella are surprisingly hardy. Their eggs, laid during the wet season, adapt to warmth and dryness by developing protective coverings during the summer heat. California linderiella eggs don’t hatch until wet weather returns. Development threatens this species by possibly paving all present and future vernal pools.

Unfortunately, I was unable to find a specimen of California linderiella to photograph. I didn’t have the right lens to shoot it even if I did find one — the Hubble is out in space.

Sacramento Army Depot
I worked at the Sacramento Army Depot from 1987 until 1994, a year before its closure.