Triops cancriformis: European Triops species - Triops Galaxy

Triops cancriformis – All about the European summer crab

Triops cancriformis, also known as the common or European primeval crab, is a fascinating species of crustacean found in various waters in Europe. These primeval creatures are often referred to as “living fossils” because they have existed almost unchanged on Earth for millions of years. The species belongs to the genus Triops and the class Branchiopoda, which is a crustacean. A remarkable feature of the species is their adaptability to different habitats. They are found in temporary bodies of water such as ponds, pools and puddles that form during periods of rain and then recede. These primeval crustaceans have developed an amazing survival strategy by laying eggs in the mud or sediment that can survive during the dry season and hatch when they are rewetted. In this blog post, I introduce the species Triops cancriformis.

Triops cancriformis: Ancestry

Triops cancriformis, a representative of the large gilled crabs (large branchiopods), is categorised as a “prehistoric crab” and living fossil. The first remains of Triops cancriformis were identified in the 1930s when fossils of this species were found in sedimentary rocks of the Lower Upper Triassic (Hassberge Formation, Middle Keuper) in the Steigerwald in Franconia. Even a separate subspecies (Triops cancriformis minor) was recognised. Further remains of a similar form, identified as Triops cf. cancriformis, come from Upper Upper Triassic sediments (palynostratigraphically dated to the Middle to Late Rhaetian) discovered in the Culpeper Basin (part of the Newark Supergroup) in the US state of Virginia. Older evidence of this type was found in the Voltzien Sandstone (Upper Buntsandstein, transition from Lower to Middle Triassic) in the Vosges Mountains in the early 1970s.

Even older are the remains of the subspecies Triops cancriformis permiensis, which were described in 1997 from the lower strata of the Salagou Formation (higher Lower or Middle Permian) in the Lodève Basin in southern France. The earliest finds of this species are thus at least 40 million years older than the first dinosaurs, and the morphological shape of Triops cancriformis has hardly changed since the Permian. Triops cancriformis is considered one of the longest-lived recent species in terms of earth history and phylogeny, based on the fossil attribution in the Steigerwald by Ferdinand Trusheim in 1937. However, recent research based on genetic studies (Molecular Clock) concludes that Triops cancriformis evolved during an Adaptive Radiation near the Cretaceous-Palaeogene boundary about 66 million years ago.

Habitats and distribution

The European primeval crayfish inhabits a diverse range of habitats and has an impressive distribution across different regions of Europe. These fascinating creatures are known for their adaptability to changing environmental conditions and their remarkable survival strategies.

The habitats mainly cover temporary or seasonal water bodies. These include temporary ponds, pools, puddles and wetlands that dry up periodically. These waters often form during the rainy season and provide ideal conditions for Triops reproduction and survival. Eggs are laid in the sediment or mud at the bottom of the water body, where they can survive dry periods and hatch when rewetted.

Triops cancriformis is native to several countries in Europe, including Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Great Britain and others. Their distribution spans different geographical regions and climatic zones. This reflects their remarkable adaptability and survival strategy.

The high adaptability of Triops cancriformis allows them to survive in a wide range of environments. During wet periods in temporary waters they are active and reproduce, while during dry periods they remain dormant. This flexibility has contributed to their long existence as “living fossils” and makes them interesting research objects for scientists and naturalists.

The conservation of habitats is of great importance, as they are not only a fascinating example of adaptation and evolution, but also fulfil ecological functions in the waters in which they live. Their survival in temporary waters contributes to maintaining the ecological balance and the food chain in these habitats.

Overall, the distribution and adaptability to different habitats shows the amazing diversity and resilience of these primeval creatures. They are living witnesses of a bygone era and offer us insights into the fascinating world of evolution and natural adaptation.

Breeding and keeping of Triops cancriformis

Breeding and keeping Triops cancriformis, the European prehistoric crayfish, is a fascinating and educational endeavour that allows one to gain insight into the lifestyle and development of these amazing creatures. Here are some important aspects of successfully breeding and keeping Triops cancriformis.

Aquarium and water conditions

An aquarium with a capacity of at least ten litres is well suited for keeping Triops cancriformis. The water temperature should be between 20° C and 24° C to ensure optimal conditions for growth and reproduction. Due to their adaptability, these crustaceans are not particularly demanding in terms of water quality, but regular partial water changes (about 20 to 30 percent weekly) are still important to maintain a healthy environment.

Substrate and setup

A substrate of sand or gravel allows the Triops to dig in it and lay eggs. Decorative elements such as small stones or plants provide hiding places and create a more natural environment in the aquarium.


Triops cancriformis are omnivorous and feed on a variety of foods including algae, microorganisms and organic matter. Suitable food includes crumbled flakes, microorganisms and special Triops food. Be sure to control feeding to avoid overfeeding and contamination of the water.

Observation and care

Breeding and keeping Triops cancriformis offers a unique opportunity to observe their behaviour and development. Observe their reproduction, the development from egg to larva and finally to adult Triops. Look out for possible signs of disease or stress, such as unusual behaviour or changes in appearance.


Triops cancriformis are known for their rapid reproduction. The females lay eggs in the substrate, which then hatch when they come into contact with water. The hatched larvae develop rapidly and reach sexual maturity within a few weeks.

Breeding and keeping Triops cancriformis can be a rewarding experience that not only offers fascinating insights into the world of these primeval creatures, but also promotes a sense of responsibility for the protection and conservation of their natural habitats. However, it is important to be well informed before starting to breed and to create the right conditions to ensure the Triops’ welfare.

Sladjan Lazic

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