Field Guide

Aquatic Invertebrates

Showing 1 - 10 of 19 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 amphipod on a rock
Species Types
Scientific Name
Species in the crustacean order Amphipoda
Description
Often overlooked by people, but eagerly sought by fish, Missouri’s amphipods resemble shrimplike sowbugs. Scuds live in various aquatic habitats, and several species inhabit caves.
Media
Photo of an aquatic isopod in an aquarium, crawling on a rock.
Species Types
Scientific Name
Freshwater members of the crustacean order Isopoda
Description
Everyone knows about terrestrial sowbugs and pillbugs, but many isopod species are aquatic. Missouri has several isopods that live in streams, ponds, rivers, and caves.
Media
Photo of several prosobranch pond snails crawling on a rock.
Species Types
Scientific Name
Over 20 Missouri species in former subclass Prosobranchia
Description
Gilled snails are one of two main groups of aquatic snails in Missouri (the other group is the "lunged" snails). Gilled snails, or prosobranchs, breathe with gills and possess a hard trapdoor-like operculum. They are most common in the Ozarks.
Media
Photo of pulmonate snail crawling on rock
Species Types
Scientific Name
Over 30 Missouri species in former subclass Pulmonata
Description
Pulmonate, or lunged snails breathe via a lunglike pulmonary cavity, and they lack the hard trapdoor-like operculum found in gilled snails. Except for in the Ozarks, pulmonate snails predominate in most of the aquatic regions in our state.
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.
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.