Field Guide

Aquatic Invertebrates

Showing 1 - 10 of 21 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
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
Photo of a papershell crayfish, also called calico crayfish.
Species Types
Scientific Name
Faxonius immunis (formerly Orconectes immunis)
Description
The calico crayfish is rather plain: gray-green with a pale central zone along the middle of the carapace and abdomen. The pincers are orange-tipped, and in mature males are tinged with purple. It is usually only found in the northern half of the state.
Media
deertoe
Species Types
Scientific Name
Truncilla truncata
Description
A common mussel in some areas, deertoe have decorative green markings.
Media
elktoe
Species Types
Scientific Name
Alasmidonta marginata
Description
The elktoe is one of many Missouri mussels with a declining population.
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
fragile papershell
Species Types
Scientific Name
Leptodea fragilis
Description
A widespread mussel that relies on freshwater drum as host fish for the developing 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
giant floater
Species Types
Scientific Name
Pygandon grandis
Description
When a floater dies, this large mussel with a thick shell will actually rise to the water surface and float as it decays.
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?
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.