Field Guide

Aquatic Invertebrates

Showing 1 - 10 of 40 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
elktoe
Species Types
Scientific Name
Alasmidonta marginata
Description
The elktoe is one of many Missouri mussels with a declining population.
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
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
brokenray
Species Types
Scientific Name
Lampsilis reeveiana
Description
The Arkansas brokenray only occurs in streams that flow south off of the Salem and Springfield plateaus, so it is found only in about the southern quarter of Missouri.
Media
Photo of a northern, also called virile, crayfish.
Species Types
Scientific Name
Faxonius virilis (formerly Oronectes virilis)
Description
The virile crayfish is large, reddish brown or green, and lacks prominent markings. The pincers are green with orange tips and are studded with whitish knobs. Paired dark blotches run along the abdomen. This species is widespread.
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.
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.
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.