Field Guide

Aquatic Invertebrates

Showing 1 - 10 of 20 results
Media
Zebra Mussel
Species Types
Scientific Name
Dreissena polymorpha
Description
Zebra mussels are named for their shells, which have alternating light and dark bands. They are a highly invasive nonnative species. Learn how to prevent their spread.
Media
Two pairs of Asian clam shells, still hinged together, showing exterior and interior
Species Types
Scientific Name
Corbicula fluminea
Description
The Asian clam is a nonnative, invasive species that lives in a variety of aquatic habitats. It has thick shells with distinctly ridged, concentric rings and a yellowish-brown to dark brown shell covering.
Media
Photograph of several mosquito larvae resting at water surface
Species Types
Scientific Name
There are about 50 species of mosquitoes in our state.
Description
The larvae of mosquitoes, often called “wrigglers,” have a large head and thorax and a narrow, wormlike abdomen; they typically hang just below the water surface. When disturbed, they wriggle downward.
Media
Water boatman viewed from above
Species Types
Scientific Name
About 125 species in North America in the family Corixidae
Description
Water boatmen are one of the few aquatic true bugs that are not predatory and do not bite people. Instead, they suck juices from algae and detritus. Only a few types eat other small aquatic creatures.
Media
Fingernail clam in a person’s hand
Species Types
Scientific Name
Pisidium, Sphaerium, and Musculium spp.
Description
Fingernail clams, also called pill clams or pea clams, are members of a family of small to tiny freshwater clams that are common but rarely noticed. They occur in a variety of aquatic habitats.
Media
Clam shrimp on a white fabric surface
Species Types
Scientific Name
Cyclestherida, Laevicaudata, and Spinicaudata (orders or suborders)
Description
Clam shrimp have their carapace shaped like a pair of clam shells and they can close it tightly when disturbed. But they are not clams: they have tiny, jointed shrimplike legs and bristly, feathery antennae.
Media
Photo of a predaceous diving beetle
Species Types
Scientific Name
Species in the beetle family Dytiscidae
Description
Like many aquatic insects, these large oval beetles prey voraciously on other aquatic organisms. Excellent swimmers, they fly well, too, and are often attracted to lights.
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!
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.