Tag Archives: giraffe

The crustacean that walks – and only in Tasmania

My last post introduced a giraffe who took a long walk. Since giraffes typically walk as part of their locomotion, the surprise of that story cannot be as great as the fact of the shrimp (prawn if you like) which walks around the high creeks and streams which flow down into the Derwent River in Tasmania.

Anaspides tasmaniae from Parks&Wildlife Service

(Photo courtesy of Parks & Wildlife Service Tasmania – http://www.parks.tas.gov.au/indeX.aspX?base=11244)

Geoffrey Smith, in his book A Naturalist in Tasmania (Oxford, 1909), describes the Anaspides tasmaniae. “A number of streams rise in the plateau of Mount Wellington, some of them attaining a considerable size before joining the estuary of the Derwent, and all of them characterised by the beautiful clearness of their water, owing to their beds being formed entirely of hard greenstone boulders.

In the pools of the upper reaches of these streams near the top of the mountain, a very peculiar shrimp-like animal is found.  It is now recognised as one of those survivals of a bygone age of which the Australian continent has furnished so many and such interesting examples. The nearest allies of this animal appear to be some marine shrimps which come down to us as fairly common fossils in the sand deposited round the Permian and Carboniferous seas of Europe and North America: subsequent to this very remote period they do not seem to have existed in the seas, at any rate in the northern hemisphere, so that an enormous passage of the earth’s history has occurred between their peopling the northern seas and their survival on the mountain tops of Tasmania.

The Tasmanian Mountain Shrimp (Anaspides tasmaniae) is sometimes as much as two inches in length, of a brown colour, and walks about on the stones and among the weeds at the bottom of the pools, browsing on the mosses and liver-worts and any small creatures it can catch; it very rarely swims, but when frightened it darts forward by flicking its tail and takes cover under a stone.

In other parts of the world no trace of the animal’s survival has been discovered.

Goethe somewhere remarks that the most insignificant natural object is, as it were, a window through which we can look into infinity. And certainly when I first saw the Mountain Shrimp walking quietly about its crystal-clear habitation, as if nothing of any great consequence had happened since its ancestors walked in a sea peopled with great reptiles … time for me was annihilated and the imposing kingdom of man shrunk indeed to a little measure.”

The website http://www.anaspides.net/other/website_name_why.html believes “Anaspides tasmaniae has remained unchanged for 250 million years (Triassic Period): it is a living fossil. The first published record of Anaspides tasmaniae was made in 1893 from alpine pools on Mt. Wellington behind Hobart.”  More details about this discovery, and about the later involvement of the author of the book excerpt above, Geoffrey Smith, can be read at http://www.tasfieldnats.org.au/TasNaturalist/Articles/1967/TasNat_1967_No8_Feb_pp1-2_Hewer_AnaspidesTasmaniae.pdf

On a camel, then on two different sailing boats, followed by a 900 mile walk

Here is a little light relief with a piece of history which has nothing to do with my walk along the Derwent River. Blog follower Jo alerted me to the story of Zarafa. Have you heard the story of Zarafa?

In the early 1800s exotic animals from Africa and beyond were still sensational to the inhabitants of Europe so, over time, various animals were transported thousands of miles from their home territory to amaze strangers and for political purposes.

The giraffe Zarafa, when gifted to King Charles X of France in 1826 in 1826, became an international sensation in consequence of the challenges faced in her travels.  Zarafa’s journey started in the country of the Masai when she was loaded onto the back of a camel. On reaching the Nile River, she boarded a sailing vessel and travelled northwards to Alexandria. From here she was moved onto a larger boat, with a hole cut in the deck so her head could lift up and out, and sailed for 32 days across the Mediterranean to France. Finally she led by a man in a long walk from Marseilles to Paris over 41 days, and by all accounts she became healthier and more robust with each step.  Fed with the milk of three accompanying cows, Zarafa was considerably taller at the end of her journey.

You can read more at:

Apparently, Zarafa’s stuffed remains can be viewed in France at the La Rochelle museum. I would be interested to hear comments from any blog follower or other reader who has visited this museum and the remains of this giraffe.

Fashion progressed (or suffered) as a result of Zarafa’s arrival.  Apparently Parisienne woman piled their hair so high they needed to sit on the floor of their carriages, and men wore elongated hats and ties as the new trend of ‘a la girafe’ emerged.