Field Guide

Aquatic Invertebrates

Showing 1 - 10 of 11 results
Media
Gray, speckled, translucent gelatinous blob cut in half to show structure
Species Types
Scientific Name
Freshwater species in the phylum Bryozoa
Description
Bryozoans are tiny, filter-feeding invertebrates. They create colonies that can be mossy, branching, or round and jellylike.
Media
Photo of several prosobranch pond snails crawling on a rock.
Species Types
Scientific Name
Over 20 Missouri species in former subclass Prosobranchia
Description
Gilled snails are one of two main groups of aquatic snails in Missouri (the other group is the "lunged" snails). Gilled snails, or prosobranchs, breathe with gills and possess a hard trapdoor-like operculum. They are most common in the Ozarks.
Species Types
Scientific Name
Various species in the genus Hydra
Description
We’ve all seen aquariums and pictures of tropical saltwater invertebrates such as corals, jellyfish and anemones—but did you know that there are similar creatures living in the freshwater habitats of Missouri?
Media
Photo of pulmonate snail crawling on rock
Species Types
Scientific Name
Over 30 Missouri species in former subclass Pulmonata
Description
Pulmonate, or lunged snails breathe via a lunglike pulmonary cavity, and they lack the hard trapdoor-like operculum found in gilled snails. Except for in the Ozarks, pulmonate snails predominate in most of the aquatic regions in our state.
Media
Photograph of several mosquito larvae resting at water surface
Species Types
Scientific Name
There are about 50 species of mosquitoes in our state.
Description
The larvae of mosquitoes, often called “wrigglers,” have a large head and thorax and a narrow, wormlike abdomen; they typically hang just below the water surface. When disturbed, they wriggle downward.
Media
Photo of a ramshorn snail on a wet rock.
Species Types
Scientific Name
Gyraulus, Helisoma, Menetus, Micromenetus, Planorbula spp.
Description
Ramshorn snails are easy to identify at a glance, because the shell is a flat, disklike coil. Like other pulmonate aquatic snails, they lack the hard horny “trapdoor” possessed by other types of aquatic snails.
Media
Riffle beetle larva photographed in water in a dish
Species Types
Scientific Name
About 100 species in North America north of Mexico
Description
Riffle beetles live underwater, in shallow, swift-flowing streams, as both adults and larvae. The larvae are elongated, multi-segmented, and rather hard and stiff; they reach about ½ inch long. The adults, the size of small ants, are oval with long legs.
Media
Adult riffle beetle walking on a rock under water
Species Types
Scientific Name
About 100 species in North America north of Mexico
Description
Riffle beetles live underwater, in shallow, swift-flowing streams, as both adults and larvae. The adults, the size of small ants, are oval with long legs. The larvae are elongated, multi-segmented, and rather hard and stiff; they reach about ½ inch long.
Media
Photo of a pink planarian on a rock.
Species Types
Scientific Name
Dugesia, Planaria, and other genera
Description
Unlike their parasitic cousins in the flatworm group, turbellarians, or planarians, are tiny carnivores or detritus-eaters that glide smoothly across submerged leaves and other objects.
Media
Water boatman viewed from above
Species Types
Scientific Name
About 125 species in North America in the family Corixidae
Description
Water boatmen are one of the few aquatic true bugs that are not predatory and do not bite people. Instead, they suck juices from algae and detritus. Only a few types eat other small aquatic creatures.
See Also

About Aquatic Invertebrates in Missouri

Missouri's streams, lakes, and other aquatic habitats hold thousands of kinds of invertebrates — worms, freshwater mussels, snails, crayfish, insects, and other animals without backbones. These creatures are vital links in the aquatic food chain, and their presence and numbers tell us a lot about water quality.