A tinaja at Sandstone Bluffs Overlook.
A tinaja at Sandtone Bluffs Overlook.

NPS Photo by John Kuehnert

A grown frog hugs the edge of a tinaja.
Amphibians like frogs must hatch from eggs, grow, and mature before the tinaja evaporates.

NPS Photo

A tinaja--pronounced "tihn-AH-hah"--is a microhabitat created when a rock depression fills with water that later disappears. In the summer, this water comes from monsoonal rains. In the winter, this water comes from accumulated snowfall that later melts in the afternoon sun.

Most tinaja dwellers have very short life cycles--some as short as 10 days--to hatch, mature, mate, lay eggs, or leave entirely before the pool dries up. Crustaceans such as fairy shrimp have adapted to the short lifespan of their habitat by laying "drought tolerant" eggs which can lose more than 90 percent of their internal water and still be viable. After the adult shrimp are long gone, the eggs lie dormant in the dusty pool bottoms. Once water returns, the eggs rehydrate and hatch into the next generation of shrimp, continuing their life cycle before the water disappears once more.

Last updated: July 5, 2020

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