Field Guide

Aquatic Invertebrates

Showing 1 - 10 of 12 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
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?
Media
lilliput
Species Types
Scientific Name
Toxolasma parvus
Description
These diminutive mollusks are the smallest of Missouri’s freshwater mussels.
Media
pink heelsplitter
Species Types
Scientific Name
Potamilus alatus
Description
A large dorsal wing and purple lining make identification of this widespread mussel easy.
Media
plain pocketbook
Species Types
Scientific Name
Lampsilis cardium
Description
The plain pocketbook is one of the most common and widespread mussels in our state. It is oval, relatively large, and occurs frequently.
Media
Photo of a ramshorn snail on a wet rock.
Species Types
Scientific Name
Gyraulus, Helisoma, Menetus, Micromenetus, Planorbula spp.
Description
Ramshorn snails are easy to identify at a glance, because the shell is a flat, disklike coil. Like other pulmonate aquatic snails, they lack the hard horny “trapdoor” possessed by other types of aquatic snails.
Media
Photo of an aquatic tubificid worm among rocks in an aquarium.
Species Types
Scientific Name
Tubifex spp. and other aquatic tubificid annelids
Description
Tubificid worms, as a group, include the tubifex worms that aquarists feed to their pet fish. These segmented worms are related to earthworms and like them are detritus eaters.
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.