An endangered (and on fingered) Riverside fairy shrimp
An endangered (and on fingered) Riverside fairy shrimp
City of Costa Mesa

Endangered Riverside Fairy Shrimp Turn Up in Costa Mesa Vernal Pools

Costa Mesa city officials say a new, endangered species of fairy shrimp was discovered in Fairview Park vernal pools this winter.

Which proves my theory: fairy shrimp are SO hot right now!

That's because adjacent to Fairview Park is the Talbert Nature Preserve and adjacent to that is Banning Ranch, former oil field land that developers want to turn into a cluster of homes, hotels and retail that would kiss the sleepy West Newport Beach coast.

However, the California Coastal Commission wants to cut the Banning Ranch project in half—to about 500 residential units on about 20 acres—so habitat can be protected for the California burrowing owl, a species of concern in California, as well as the endangered California gnatcatcher and San Diego fairy shrimp, which live in vernal pools on that property. Banning Ranch's developer is suing the commission in hopes of a court reversal.

As expected, Costa Mesa city staffers also found endangered San Diego fairy shrimp in a number of vernal pools that emerged after the heavy rains in December and January, but in a twist representative of the city's inland location as compared to that of Newport Beach, Riverside fairy shrimp were discovered as well.

“It is likely that the Riverside fairy shrimp, which is a warm-water species, has been present but went undetected because of very low numbers and because they typically emerge after the San Diego fairy shrimp, which prefer the cold water of December and January, are finished for the season,” says Tony Bomkamp, a biologist who consults with the city on Fairview Park, in a Costa Mesa release.

The Riverside fairy shrimp was named for Riverside County, where it was originally found and thought to occur in only a few pools there. Later it was found in San Diego County in many pools including on Camp Pendleton, according to Costa Mesa officials. Present in the fossil record for more than 300 million years, fairy shrimp are among the world's oldest crustaceans, originating in Africa.

Fairview Park's vernal pools and the respective watersheds are off limits to the general public to protect the habitats and have been temporarily delineated based on historical maps. Additional delineation will be added to protect expanded areas of the vernal pool basins as soon as the ground is hard and dry, according to the city.

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