Field Guide

Aquatic Invertebrates

Showing 1 - 10 of 14 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
Photo of a coldwater crayfish.
Species Types
Scientific Name
Faxonius eupunctus (formerly Orconectes eupunctus)
Description
The coldwater crayfish has a very localized distribution in the Eleven Point River system. It is stout, with a blue-green head and pincers and dark, rust-brown carapace. It is an imperiled species.
Media
elephantear mussel half-buried in a gravel substrate
Species Types
Scientific Name
Elliptio crassidens
Description
Today found only in the Meramec River, the elephantear has been classified as Endangered in Missouri and is a candidate for federal Endangered status.
Media
ellipse
Species Types
Scientific Name
Venustaconcha ellipsiformis and V. pleasii
Description
These small mussels use darters, a type of fish, as hosts for their young.
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.
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
Photo of a painted devil crayfish standing on a sandy substrate
Species Types
Scientific Name
Lacunicambarus ludovicianus (syn. Cambarus ludovicianus)
Description
The painted devil crayfish is a burrowing lowland species. In Missouri, it is known from only a few locations in the Bootheel. Its overall color is olive green to blue, with reddish and cream markings.
Media
pink mucket
Species Types
Scientific Name
Lampsilis abrupta
Description
This endangered native mussel lives in flowing waters of large streams among gravel and cobble.
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.