Field Guide

Aquatic Invertebrates

Showing 1 - 10 of 38 results
Media
Photo of a mayfly naiad crawling on rock underwater
Species Types
Scientific Name
There are hundreds of species in North America.
Description
Mayfly larvae, or nymphs, live from months to years under water, breathing through gills, and the adults fly around in the air, mating, living for only a day or two.
Media
Photo of crane fly larva
Species Types
Scientific Name
There are over 500 species of crane flies in North America.
Description
Crane fly larvae are tan or gray grubs that live in aquatic habitats or in moist places on the ground. The harmless adults resemble huge mosquitoes.
Media
Photo of a fishfly larva crawling among rocks in an aquarium.
Species Types
Scientific Name
Chauliodes, Neohermes, and Nigronia spp. (in eastern US)
Description
Fishfly larvae look a lot like their cousins the hellgrammites, but they lack cottony or hairy gill tufts along the abdomen, and they have 2 short, fleshy tails at the hind tip.
Media
Photo of an alderfly larva among rocks and gravel in an aquarium.
Species Types
Scientific Name
Sialis spp.
Description
Alderfly larvae look a lot like their cousins the fishflies, but instead of having pairs of fleshy tails, they have only a single tail pointing straight back.
Media
Photo of a stonefly naiad clinging to a rock underwater
Species Types
Scientific Name
There are hundreds of species in North America
Description
Stonefly larvae are aquatic and somewhat resemble the larvae of mayflies and damselflies. Their presence usually indicates good water quality.
Media
Photo of a damselfly nymph on rocks in an aquarium.
Species Types
Scientific Name
Species in the suborder Zygoptera
Description
Damselfly larvae are narrow-bodied aquatic insects with large eyes, six thin legs, and three paddle-shaped, tail-like gills at the hind end.
Media
Photo of caddisfly larva with case made of detritus
Species Types
Scientific Name
About 1,500 species in North America north of Mexico
Description
The aquatic larvae of caddisflies are famous for building portable, protective cases out of local materials, including grains of sand, bits of leaves and twigs, and other debris. The adults are mothlike.
Media
Photo of a deer fly larva, probably in a petri dish, on a gray background.
Species Types
Scientific Name
Tabanus, Chrysops, and related genera
Description
The larvae of horse and deer flies are fairly straight, segmented, wormlike maggots that are tan, whitish, or brownish. They are aquatic or live in mud, and most are predaceous.
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
Photo of a horsehair worm in an aquarium
Species Types
Scientific Name
About 350 species scientifically described.
Description
Adult horsehair worms can be nearly 3 feet long and live in water. They are practically featureless, smooth, aquatic worms that writhe into knots and curls.
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.