Field Guide

Aquatic Invertebrates

Showing 1 - 10 of 35 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 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
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
Photo of a paintedhand mudbug carefully arranged against a black background
Species Types
Scientific Name
Lacunicambarus polychromatus (syn. Cambarus polychromatus)
Description
The paintedhand mudbug is a burrowing crayfish known in Missouri from only a few locations along the eastern border of the Bootheel. It is tan to olive green, and the abdominal segments and tail fan are trimmed with red. The pincers have red spots and red tips.
Media
Bluefer
Species Types
Scientific Name
Potamilus purpuratus
Description
Like the pink heelsplitter and fragile and pink papershells, the bluefer uses freshwater drum as a host.
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.
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.
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.