Dr. D.’s guide to common, higher taxa of Aquatic Invertebrates




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"The Universe of Aquatic Inverts"


Dr. D.’s guide to

common, higher taxa of

Aquatic Invertebrates

based on the major external morphology

and field obsersvation,

with emphasis on freshwater groups


Aquatic Biodiversity

Kennesaw State University
Common Taxa in freshwaters

Phylum Porifera (sponges)

Phylum Cnidaria (jellyfish, hydra, sea anemones, and corals)
Class Hydrozoa

Phylum Rotifera

Phylum Entoprocta

(moss animalcules)



Phylum Bryozoa

Phylum Platyhelminthes (Flatworms)

Class Turbellaria


Phylum Annelida (earthworms, polychaete worms, and leeches)

Subclass Hirudinea (leeches)

Subclass Oligochaeta

Subclass Aeolosomatida

Phylum Mollusca (bivalves, snails, cephalopods)

Class Gastropoda (snails)

Subclass Prosobranchia

Subclass Pulmonata

Class Bivalvia (mussels and clams)
Family Unionidae
Family Dressenidae
Family Corbiculidae
Family Sphaeriidae

Phylum Arthropoda (insects, crustaceans, spiders, etc.)

Class Crustacea

Subclass Branchiopoda

Order Cladocera (water fleas)

Order Anostraca (fairy shrimp) -

Order Notostraca (tadpole shrimp).

Order Conchostraca (clam shrimp)

Subclass Ostracoda (seed shrimp)

Subclass Malacostraca

Order Isopoda (aquatic sow bugs)

Order Amphipoda (scuds, sideswimmers)

Order Decapoda (crayfish, freshwater shrimp)

Order Mysidacea (opossum shrimp)

Subclass Copepoda

Order Harpacticoida


Order Cyclopoida

Order Calanoida

Class Arachnoidea

Order Acari (water mites)


Class Insecta (Hexapoda) (insects)

Order Odonata (dragonflies and damselflies)

Order Ephemeroptera (mayflies)

Order Plecoptera (stoneflies)

Order Trichoptera (caddisflies)

Order Megaloptera (alderflies, dobsonflies, fishflies)

Order Coleoptera (beetles)

Order Hemiptera (true bugs)

Order Diptera (true flies)

Order Lepidoptera (moths)

Order Neuroptera (spongillaflies)

Phylum Nematoda (roundworms)

Phylum Nematomorpha (horsehair or gordian worms)

Phylum Nemertea (ribbon worms)

ADDITIONAL INFO:

Encysts under harsh env. condition but can not withstand complete drying.

Phylum Gastrotricha

ADDITIONAL INFO:

Capable of dissection resistant egg (most genera cosmopolitan and world-wide).

Found on vegetation and debris in marshes and littoral areas.

Rotifer like in that feeding by cilia and temporary attachment by adhesive secretion.

Phylum Tardigrada (water bears)


Common Taxa in freshwaters



Phylum Porifera (sponges)

MAJOR EXTERNAL CHARACTERISTICS:

Internally, no organs and tissue layers, sessile, a maze of interconnecting and ramifying channels and chambers used to filter feed.

FRESHWATER TAXONOMIC INFO:

Only one family of freshwater sponges (Spongillidae) despite the great diversity (4500 spp.). Freshwater forms are inconspicuous, drab in color, and variable in growth form due to ecological conditions. Often green on upper surfaces due to contained algal cells. Skeleton containing a great number of spicules (silicon dioxide) in a chaotic network, supporting flimsy tissue. Size is variable. Produce gemmules ( highly resistant resting stage) often in response to harsh environmental conditions.

Gemmules, overwintering bodies, of the Sponge cross-section

freshwater sponge spongilla.

ADDITIONAL INFO:

Feed by straining minute particles (bacteria and detritus) though flagellated channels.

Gemmules - highly resistant resting stages (150-1000 µm) often formed in response to harsh env. condition (similar to statoblasts in FW bryozoans, diapause in copepods, resting eggs in rotifers and cladocerans).

Spicules revealed with 2 drops of nitric acid and heated over flame until dry. Spicules and gemmules used primarily for I.D.

Distribution - geology, drainage basin, or habitat? Hint: Spicules need silica, feeding requires passive particles, gemmules easily spread. Uncommon in rapidly moving waters (boundary layer?)

Class Demospongea

Order Haploscelerina



Family Spongillidae
Phylum Cnidaria (jellyfish, hydra, sea anemones, and corals; formerly Phylum Coelenterata)

MAJOR EXTERNAL CHARACTERISTICS:

Radially or biradially symmetric, gastrovascular cavity has a single exterior opening that serves as both mouth and anus. two basic body forms, medusa and polyp. Medusae, are free-swimming or floating. Typically marine.

FRESHWATER TAXONOMIC INFO:



Class Hydrozoa - Most freshwater species exist as either polyps but one US species occasionally seen as medusae. The majority of species are marine and colonial.

ADDITIONAL INFO: no resting/ encysting stage reported



Phylum Rotifera (also knowns a Rotatoria)

MAJOR EXTERNAL CHARACTERISTICS:

Small bodied. Considerable morphological variation, most with elongated, cylindrical body covered by a cuticle (often rigid, some with spines, some appear segmented). Cilia often observable on anterior feeding organ (corona), particularly in living specimens. Benthic forms with toe for attachment and some build tubes. Typically translucent.

FRESHWATER TAXONOMIC INFO:

One of only a few groups to have unquestionably originated in freshwater; < 5% of species restricted to brackish and marine environments. Capable of producing resting eggs.





ADDITIONAL INFO:

Resting egg produced only at times of sexual reproduction (most of year reproduction is parthenogenic). Males basically a sac of sex organs.

Length of spines increase in prey rotifer Brachionus in the presence of fitrates from the predacous rotifer Asplanchna



Phylum Bryozoa (moss animalcules; sometimes equivalent to Ectoprocta)

MAJOR EXTERNAL CHARACTERISTICS:

Colonial. Individuals microscopic with circular or U-shaped ridge (lophophore) bearing tentacles around mouth for filter feeding. Most of body contained with casing (zooecium) secreted by body wall and tentacular crown is withdrawn into casing when disturbed.

FRESHWATER TAXONOMIC INFO:

Colonies moss-like in appearance. Though mostly marine, 50 freshwater species. Zooecia may be branching and thread-like, crust-like, or gelatinous. Produce gemmules ( highly resistant resting stage).

ADDITIONAL INFO:

Statoblasts are asexual internal buds that are enclosed by 2 sculptured valves and released as dissection resistant propagules.

Filter feeders.


Phylum Platyhelminthes (Flatworms)

MAJOR EXTERNAL CHARACTERISTICS:

Unsegmented, bilaterally symmetrical worms. Highly flattened and leaf-like.
FRESHWATER TAXONOMIC INFO:

Class Turbellaria (4500 spp.) predominately free-living and aquatic (other classes mostly parasitic). The majority of freshwater forms are microscopic (larger forms can be confused with leeches). Color and patterns vary though the ventral surface is often lighter. Longitudinal, circular, and oblique layers of muscle resulting in smooth gliding movements. Head region often with light-sensitive organs. Capable of producing wintering eggs and encysting.

ADDITIONAL INFO:

Turbellarians are mostly carnivorous, preying on tiny invertebrates that they locate by means of their chemoreceptors.

Some (triclads) capable of fragmentation into several parts. each of which encysts. Wintering eggs also produced. Species tend to be widely distributed as a result.

Springs, stream, ditches, marshes, temporary pools, ponds, and lakes, typically under rocks (photonegative).

May be collected using raw cubes of lean beef as bait.



Phylum Annelida (earthworms, polychaete worms, and leeches)

MAJOR EXTERNAL CHARACTERISTICS:

Made up of segments that are formed by subdivisions that partially transect the body cavity, increasing the efficiency of body movement by allowing the effect of muscle contraction to be extremely localized.

FRESHWATER TAXONOMIC INFO:



Subclass Hirudinea (44 spp.)- Leeches have a dorso-ventrally flattened body with both an anterior and posterior sucker (usually). Unlike most freshwater invertebrates, leeches are often brightly colored and patterned. Move on substrate with creeping, looping, or inchworm movement. Most are freshwater species.

Hirudinea - External anatomical features of the leech.


Subclass Oligochaeta - Typically more delicately constructed than terrestrial earthworms. Setae (bristle-like structures) often obvious and are important as a taxonomic characteristic. Tubifex is a common genera of small tube-builders and found in dense waving masses in low-oxygen environments (pollution indicator species).
(3 other subclasses of annelids are represented though rare as free-living freshwater forms and include polychaetes which are extremely diverse in marine systems)

ADDITIONAL INFO:

Most leeches are found in freshwater habitats, but a few are marine and some are terrestrial. Many forms predators and scavengers, few will take blood from warm-blooded animals (bring salt). Notes on coloration should be taken in the field. Some with resistant cocoon stage allowing dispersal between drainage basins.

Most FW oligochaetes ingest substrate as in earthworms. Some with resistant cocoon stage allowing dispersal between drainage basins.



Phylum Mollusca (bivalves, snails, cephalopods)

MAJOR EXTERNAL CHARACTERISTICS:

Mollusks are bilaterally symmetrical; characteristic of most mollusks is the head-foot region, most with a well-developed head, in which is located a mouth and a concentration of nervous and sensory functions. Adjacent to the head is a large, muscular foot. Most with a calcareous shell of some kind. Mostly marine, but many freshwater and terrestrial.
FRESHWATER TAXONOMIC INFO:

Class Gastropoda (snails) most with spiral shells (calcium carbonate), foot flatten along ventral surface. Often feed on benthic algae. Shell in freshwater species is typically drab, and thickness and shape can be variable within species depending on environmental conditions.
Class Bivalvia (Pelecypoda) (mussels and clams) - two shell valves (calcium carbonate) attached by elastic ligament with protrudable foot. Typically filter feeders. May be found completely buried except for siphons. Shell in freshwater species is typically drab and rough. (Note that some are sessile such as the zebra mussel).

ADDITIONAL INFO:

Emphasize: thickness and shape can be variable within species depending on environmental conditions (e.g. water action).

Fewer spp. and nos. found in waters low in calcium carbonate.

Most gastropods herbivores scrapping attached algae with radula (chiton toothed tongue-like structure). Development is direct w/ young snails leaving eggs w/ basic morphology of adults (as opposed to marine forms w/ planktonic larvae).

Most pelecypods are filter feeders via siphon. Marine bivalves and Corbicula have free-swimming larva but all native fresh-water mussels have larvae (glochidium) parasitic on fish gills (10-30 d).

Freshwater mussels most diverse in N. Amer. (thought to be evol. origin) but most threatened (no supermodels), in part due to button and pearl nuclei industry, water pollution, and introduced non-mussel bivalves.

An example of the ecological (not to mention economic) impact of mollusks is given by the recent introduction of zebra mussels to the Great Lakes. Zebra mussels live in large numbers on hard surfaces, and they feed by filtering particles from the water. The effectiveness of their feeding is remarkable; water clarity in some of the Great Lakes has improved dramatically in the years since zebra mussels first appeared.


Phylum Arthropoda (insects, crustaceans, spiders, etc.)

MAJOR EXTERNAL CHARACTERISTICS:

Bilaterally symmetrical with strongly segmented bodies. Segmentation, some segments are fused to form specialized body regions called tagmata; these include the head, thorax and abdomen. The body is covered with an exoskeleton made up primarily of the protein chitin; lipids, other proteins, and calcium carbonate also play a role. Primitively, each body segment bears a pair of segmented (jointed) appendages; in all living arthropods, many of these appendages are dramatically modified or even lost. Arthropods generally grow by molting their exoskeletons in a process called ecdysis.
FRESHWATER TAXONOMIC INFO:

Class Crustacea

Two pair of appendages; most body segments bear paired, jointed appendages that are fundamentally biramous (basal protopod, segmented endopod, and segmented exopod). Two pair of antennae.




Subclass Branchiopoda

Small fresh-water crustaceans with broad leaf-like appendages fringed with bristles (phyllopods), that are used for filter-feeding.


Order Cladocera (water fleas) - Small bodied, tanslucent. Abdomen and thorax covered by carapace that appears bivalved but is actually a single fold. Carpace generally round in shape, though often with angles. Head distinct with large second antennae (used for swimming), conspicuous compound eye, and often with beak. 5-6 leaf-like thoracic legs, often visible though typically translucent carapace. Filter feeders. Typically 0.2-3.0 mm in length. Many capable of producing resting eggs.


Cladocerans: swim with antennae, at small scales, physics of water very different

Resting egg produced only at times of sexual reproduction (most of year reproduction is parthenogenic). Resting egg contained within ephippium (thickened, darkened wall of brood chamber cast off at molt). At other times brooding eggs/embryos visable through carapace.

Order Anostraca (fairy shrimp including sea monkeys) - exclusively freshwater! Last segement bears pair of cercopods. No carapace, 11 pair of swimming legs. Capable of producing resting eggs resistant to desiccation.

Order Notostraca (tadpole shrimp) - exclusively freshwater! Last segement bears pair of cercopods. Sheildlike carapace covering most of the body, 35-71 pairs of legs. Capable of producing resting eggs resistant to desiccation.

Order Conchostraca (clam shrimp) - exclusively freshwater! Small bodied. Laterally compressed and enclosed in a carapace consisting of two lateral valves (often clam-like with concentric rings), 10-32 pairs of legs. Last segement bears pair of cercopods. Capable of producing resting eggs resistant to desiccation.

ADDITIONAL INFO:

Fairy, tadpole, and clam shrimp inhabitats of temporary pools and all can produce resting eggs resistant to desiccation. Some taxa truly cosmopolitan.
Subclass Ostracoda (seed shrimp)

Small bodied. Two calcitic, chitonous valves (seed shaped) make-up the carapace which encloses the body (no concentric growth rings as seen in many chonchostacans). The thoracic region bear only 3 pair of legs; no abdominal appendages; two long caudal rami. Typically <3 mm. Capable of producing resting eggs resistant to desiccation and adults can resist desiccation for short times.

ADDITIONAL INFO:

May form dissecation resistant egg (>20 yrs) and adults can resist dissection for short times (pers. ob.). Many genera and species cosmopolitan or Holarctic.



Subclass Malacostraca

Tend to be larger forms. Thorax (8 segments) and abdomen (6 segments). All thoracic segments and most abdominal segments have a pair of appendages.


Order Isopoda (aquatic sow bugs) - Dorsoventrally flattened bodies and lack carapace. Thoracic segements form a series of plate-like structures (pereon). Typically 5-20 mm long.


Order Amphipoda (scuds, sideswimmers) - similarity to the isopods, but show lateral rather than dorsoventral flattening of the body. First 4 abdominal segements enlarged. Typically 5-20 mm long.


Order Decapoda (crayfish, freshwater shrimp) - The head and thorax are fused to form a cephalothorax cover by a carapace. Five pair of large chephalothorax walking legs; the first pair of legs are often large, heavy and pincered (chelipeds). Typically 10-150 mm long.


Order Mysidacea (opossum shrimp) - similar in appearance to decopods, but numerous differences including thin, long swimming legs in place of walking legs. Few freshwater species (many marine) but important predators. Typically 8-30 mm in length.


ADDITIONAL INFO:

Malacostracans brood eggs.



Subclass Copepoda - Small bodied, translucent. More or less cyclindrical, segmented body form divided into a wide anterior metasome and a narrower posterior urosome (egg sacs may be present at articulation of these two body parts). First antennae large (used for swimming). Fifth thoracic legs used in copulation and important for species identification. Last abdominal segment bears two caudal rami bearing slendor outgrowths. Typically 0.3-3 mm in length. Many capable of diapausing as immatures.

Adult cyclopoid Adult calanoid Early napliar stage


Copepods: calanoid -

cyclopoid -

harpacticoid -

3 parasitic suborders

Copepod reproduction: sexual using fifth pair of legs, Often with diapause Eggs usually carried in FW spp. Molting with 6 nauplier stages, and 5 copepodids
Class Arachnoidea Two segments: cephalothorax and abdomen.
Order Acari (mites) (the water mites are not a specific taxonmic group but most are within the subgroup Hydracarina) - Small bodied. Bright colors (typically red or green), typically globular to ovoid in shape, differing from spiders in that chephalothorax and abdomen are fused. Four pair of long legs variously covered with spines, setea, and long hairs. Typically 0.4 - 3 mm in length.

ADDITIONAL INFO:

Larvae typically parisitic on insects (dispersal possible in host metamorphizes to flying adult). Distribution not well known.

Class Insecta (also known as Hexapoda) (insects) - 3 body regions (head, thorax, and abdomen) with 3 pair of unbranched (uniramous) legs on thorax. No truly marine species. Most insects are terrestrial, many are aquatic only as immatures, fewer are aquatic throughout life. Many immatures use tracheal gills which be difficult to keep moist in a flying adult stage. Respiratory structures may also limit range of depth for aquatic insects.

ADDITIONAL INFO:



Most semi-aquatic and even adult aquatic beetles and bugs typically come up for air (respiratory system of trachea may limit invasion of water)
FRESHWATER TAXONOMIC INFO:
Order Odonata (dragonflies and damselflies) - Terrestrial adults for 2 weeks to two months, capable of flight. Larvae can climb out of water temporarily and obtain oxygen. Some are capable of producing a resting egg. Engulfers. Hemimetabolous (incomplete metamorphosis)



Order Ephemeroptera (mayflies) - Terrestrial adults but this stage last only about 1 day; capable of flight. Generally collector gathers, some scrapers, a few engulfers. Hemimetabolous



Order Plecoptera (stoneflies) - Terrestrial adults for 1-4 weeks, capable of flight. Shredders, engulfers, a few collector gathers and a few scrapers. Hemimetabolous


Order Hemiptera (true bugs) - Terrestrial adults capable of flight, though many groups aquatic throughout life. Piercers mostly carnivorous, some adapt to water surface (neustonic). Hemimetabolous


Order Trichoptera (caddisflies) - Terrestrial adults for ~ 4 weeks, capable of flight. Collector filters and gatherers. Most build cases either attached to substrate or useful as ballast, piercers, engulfers, scrapers, shredders. Homometabolous (complete metamorphosis)



Order Megaloptera (alderflies, dobsonflies, fishflies) - Terrestrial adults for 3-10 days, capable of flight. Engulfers. Homometabolous



Order Coleoptera (beetles) - Terrestrial adults capable of flight, though some groups aquatic throughout life (aquatic adults often trap bubbles from surface air to use as O2 supply). Many beetles secret toxic secondary compounds. Engulfers and piercers or scrapers, shredders, and collector gathers. Homometabolous



Order Diptera (true flies) - Terrestrial adults for several days to 2 weeks (though some live for several months), capable of flight. Various functional feeding groups. Homometabolous



Order Lepidoptera (moths) - Terrestrial adults capable of flight. Shredders, typically of live plant tissue. Homometabolous
Order Neuroptera (spongillaflies) - Terrestrial adults capable of flight. Piercers on sponges. Homometabolous

Other less common or semi-aquatic orders include Order Hymenoptera (wasps), Order Collembola (springtails), and Order Orthoptera (grasshoppers).



Phylum Nematoda (roundworms)

MAJOR EXTERNAL CHARACTERISTICS:

Worm-like organisms that are surrounded by a strong, flexible noncellular layer called a cuticle. Movement by contraction of the longitudinal muscles resulting in "thrashing" movement. Because their internal pressure is high, this causes the body to flex rather than flatten.

FRESHWATER TAXONOMIC INFO:

Typically <1cm in length. Freshwater species are poorly known due to size and difficulty in identification. Body typically translucent and circular in cross-section. Eggs are highly resistant to dessication and small enough to be wind-borne.

ADDITIONAL INFO:

Highly adaptable. Nematodes are almost unbelievably abundant. 90,000 individual nematodes in a single rotting apple. 236 species living in a few cubic centimeters of mud. Described species is around 12,000, but may be closer to 500,000. Some species are generalists, occurring across wide areas and in many habitats; others are much more specialized. A good example of the latter is a species of nematode that is known only from felt coasters placed under beer mugs in a few towns in Germany. Many nematodes are free living and play critical ecological roles as decomposers and predators on microorganisms. But nematodes also include parasitic species.
Phylum Nematomorpha (horsehair or gordian worms)

MAJOR EXTERNAL CHARACTERISTICS:

Very long (10-70 cm), thin worms

FRESHWATER TAXONOMIC INFO:

Only 1 of ~100 species marine, all others freshwater. Larvae encyst near water’s edge in vegetation or other substrate, then are parasitic on both aquatic and terrestrial insects that consume cysts

ADDITIONAL INFO:

Larvae encyst near water’s edge in vegetation or other substrate, then are parasitic on both aquatic and terrestrial insects that consume cysts (may cause terrest. insects to seek water).

Species can be widely distributed across two continents.



Phylum Nemertea (ribbon worms)

MAJOR EXTERNAL CHARACTERISTICS:

Somewhat flattened, elliptical in cross-section, anterior end rounded. Extremely long protrudable tubular proboscis with spike-like sylet for defense and capturing prey.

FRESHWATER TAXONOMIC INFO:

Few species (7) and rarely found in freshwater. Smooth gliding type of locomotion due to circular and longitudinal muscles. Encysts under harsh env. conditions but can not withstand complete drying.

Phylum Gastrotricha

MAJOR EXTERNAL CHARACTERISTICS:

Extremely small (typically 100-300 µm). Typically bowling pin shaped with two posterior projections. In most forms, cuticle with scales, plates, or spines.

FRESHWATER TAXONOMIC INFO:

Abundant in both freshwater and marine environments. Capable of producing dissection resistant egg. Feeding by cilia and temporary attachment by adhesive secretion.

ADDITIONAL INFO:

Capable of dissection resistant egg (most genera cosmopolitan and world-wide).

Found on vegetation and debris in marshes and littoral areas.

Rotifer like in that feeding by cilia and temporary attachment by adhesive secretion.

Phylum Tardigrada (water bears)

MAJOR EXTERNAL CHARACTERISTICS:

Small bodied. Extremely small (typically <500 µm). Stout cylindrical body with 4 pair of stumpy legs with claws.

FRESHWATER TAXONOMIC INFO:

Not abundant in typical freshwater environments (mostly in aquatic mosses and algae), abundant in moist film of terrestrial mosses and liverworts and in capillary water of sandy beaches. Capable of dissection resistant egg and of anhyrobiosis up to 7 years

ADDITIONAL INFO:

Capable of dissection resistant egg and of anhyrobiosis up to 7 years (most species cosmopolitan and world-wide).

Exclusively or almost entirely marine phyla

(many with planktonic larval stage)


Phylum Brachiopoda - presently a small phylum of attached organism with shell valves with lophophore

Phylum Entoprocta (2-3 FW spp.) - sometimes placed under Bryozoans

Phylum Ctenophora (comb-jellies) diverse planktonic phylum

Phylum Chaetognatha - planktonic and predators

Phylum Phoronida - small phylum of tube-dwelling worms with lophophore

Phylum Pogonophora -small phylum of deep-water tube dwelling worms

Phylum Vestimentifera - small phylum of tube-dwelling worms associated with deep-sea seeps and vents, considered by some as Pogonophora

Phylum Sipuncula - small phylum of burrowing worms

Phylum Hemichordata - small phylum of burrowing worms

Phylum Echinodermata (starfish, urchins...) - large, diverse phylum

Phylum Priapula - small phylum of burrowing worms

Phylum Gnathostomulida - small phylum of tiny interstitial individuals

Phylum Kinorhyncha - small phylum of tiny interstitial individuals

Phylum Loricifera - small phylum of tiny interstitial individuals
Note that many major invertebrate taxa within phlya are also exclusively or almost entirely marine (e.g. Class Cirripedia, barnacles, in Arthropoda, Urochordata and Cephalochordata within Chordata, Chephlopoda within Mollusca, etc.).
For a current probable phylogenetic tree of invertebrates, go to:

http://science.kennesaw.edu/~jdirnber/InvertZoo/Tree/InvertTree.html






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