Field Guide

Aquatic Invertebrates

Showing 1 - 10 of 19 results
Media
Photo of backswimmer, side view
Species Types
Scientific Name
About 32 North American species in the family Notonectidae
Description
Sometimes called “water bees” or “water wasps,” backswimmers are predaceous and can deliver a painful bite if mishandled. True to their name, they swim belly-up, and their backs are keeled like a boat, which makes back-swimming easier.
Media
Photo of a belted crayfish, also called Big River crayfish.
Species Types
Scientific Name
Faxonius harrisonii (formerly Orconectes harrisonii)
Description
The belted crayfish is medium-small, tan, with a distinctive pattern of alternating olive-green and reddish-brown bands on the abdominal segments. It is found only in the Big River and its tributaries.
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
Two Chinese mysterysnails, out of water, resting on a white surface, with a ruler nearby for scale
Species Types
Scientific Name
Cipangopaludina chinensis malleata (syn. Bellamya chinensis)
Description
The Chinese mysterysnail is a nonnative invasive species quickly taking over urban waters throughout the state. Never release aquarium species or aquarium water into natural aquatic habitats. Learn about and practice clean boating techniques so that you do not accidentally spread invasive aquatic species.
Media
Photo of crane fly larva
Species Types
Scientific Name
There are over 500 species of crane flies in North America.
Description
Crane fly larvae are tan or gray grubs that live in aquatic habitats or in moist places on the ground. The harmless adults resemble huge mosquitoes.
Media
pond mussel
Species Types
Scientific Name
Bivalve molluscs in order Unionoida
Description
Secretive and seldom seen, freshwater mussels are extraordinarily diverse in Missouri. We have nearly 70 species within our borders. Many are declining, and several are endangered.
Media
Photo of a golden crayfish viewed through the surface of creek water.
Species Types
Scientific Name
Faxonius luteus (formerly Orconectes luteus)
Description
The golden crayfish varies in color from olive green to golden yellow. Many body parts are trimmed with red. A dark band crosses the head just in front of the cervical groove, and another crosses the carapace at its junction with the abdomen. It's a wide-ranging species.
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
lilliput
Species Types
Scientific Name
Toxolasma parvus
Description
These diminutive mollusks are the smallest of Missouri’s freshwater mussels.
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.
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.