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Mountain Shrimp, Anaspides spp.

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Tasmania's invertebrate fauna is particularly rich in Gondwanan species, such as Mountain Shrimps (Anaspides spp), among the most ancient representatives of the Crustaceans.

Mountain Shrimps belong to the ancient group of crustaceans known as Syncarids, which resemble forms known from 250 million year old Triassic fossils. 

Mountain Shrimps do not possess the shield-like carapace typical of most crustaceans (indeed the genus name "Anaspides" is derived from the Greek, "lacking shield"). 

Three species of Anaspides are found in Tasmania. All are endemic (i.e. found only in Tasmania).

Anaspides tasmaniae is the most common and is widely distributed throughout Tasmania above 300 metres, where it is a common resident of the tarns, lakes and streams that characterise the Tasmania highlands. It is commonly encountered in streams and pools in caves. Cave populations show some loss of pigment as a result of living in complete darkness. As our knowledge of these animals increases, some cave forms may prove to be be separate species. What was previously thought to be a separate species,  Anaspides spinulae, is restricted to Lake St Clair and Clarence Lagoon. Research now suggests that A. tasmaniae and A. spinulae are phylogenetically the same species.

Two further species of Anaspides from the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area remain undescribed.

Anaspides grows up to 5 cm in length. The colour varies from black to yellow-brown and the straight body is comprised of 15 segments, with a fan-like tail and two pairs of antennae and a pair of eyes on short stalks. 

They feed on mosses, lichen, algae, carrion, tadpoles, worms and other invertebrates (including members of their own species).

Anaspides lay small eggs 1mm across during spring. The eggs are attached to submerged plants for over 8 months before 2-3mm young hatch in June or July. Breeding occurs when the animal reaches about 18 mm in length, some 15 months after hatching. They live for 3 - 4 years. 

As their distributions lie largely within national parks and there is no direct evidence for any significant reduction of their distribution, their future seems relatively secure at present. However, major threats to the species include predation by fish, including the introduced trout, and warming of the alpine environment as a consequence of global warming.

A further four species of syncarid crustaceans occur in Tasmania, Allanaspides hickmani and A. helonomus, Paranaspides lacustris and Micraspides calamani. All are endemic.