Field Guide

Aquatic Invertebrates

Showing 1 - 10 of 13 results
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
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.
Media
Fingernail clam in a person’s hand
Species Types
Scientific Name
Pisidium, Sphaerium, and Musculium spp.
Description
Fingernail clams, also called pill clams or pea clams, are members of a family of small to tiny freshwater clams that are common but rarely noticed. They occur in a variety of aquatic habitats.
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
Photo of a freshwater jellyfish
Species Types
Scientific Name
Craspedacusta sowerbii (syn. C. sowerbyi)
Description
You may have heard about stinging jellyfish in the ocean, but did you know that there are similar creatures living in the freshwater of Missouri? Fortunately, they’re harmless!
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
Red midge fly larva, side view, in a petri dish
Species Types
Scientific Name
Nearly 1,100 species in North America
Description
Midge larvae look something like thin aquatic inchworms. They can be clear, whitish, olive, tan, or bright red. They occur in a variety of aquatic habitats. As adults, they resemble mosquitoes but they never bite.
Media
Water springtails congregate in water above soggy dead leaves
Species Types
Scientific Name
Podura aquatica
Description
In early spring, clusters of water springtails float on the surface of quiet waters, on muddy banks, and on protruding objects. Adults are bluish gray with reddish appendages.
Media
Photo of an aquatic isopod in an aquarium, crawling on a rock.
Species Types
Scientific Name
Freshwater members of the crustacean order Isopoda
Description
Everyone knows about terrestrial sowbugs and pillbugs, but many isopod species are aquatic. Missouri has several isopods that live in streams, ponds, rivers, and caves.
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.
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.