Any animal without a backbone is called an invertebrate. Hundreds of species of invertebrates live in vernal pools but only about half of them have been named. From insects to flatworms to seed shrimp, invertebrates create a diverse and interwoven world of creatures, living with (and off) one another.
Some zoologists spend a lifetime studying a single group of invertebrates or even a single species. There is so much we still do not know about them. After reading about them and watching videos of them in action visit The Faces of Science. There you will discover a man who was so crazy about Fairy Shrimp that he searched the world over to meet them all!
Crustaceans have jointed legs and a hard exoskeleton. They come in many shapes and sizes. Crustaceans’ body shapes are so varied that the only thing they all have in common is two pairs of antennae at some stage of their life cycle.
You would probably recognize a crab, a lobster and a crawfish (crawdad) but few people realize how many crustaceans live in the world around us. More than 38,000 species of crustaceans are known; most live in the ocean and many have not yet been named.
Insects are arthropods. LIke many other types of arthropods, insects have a hard shell and jointed legs. In fact, arthro-pod means jointed-leg. insects have six jointed legs, which puts them in class by themselves – the class Insecta. Worldwide nearly one million species of insects are known to exist.
The insects you will read about here all live in and around the vernal pools of Mather Field. Probably hundreds more species of insects live there but nobody has documented their presence to share with others. There is so much yet to be discovered. So, what are you waiting for! Grab an insect net and a jar to meet hundreds of new friends, each with three pairs of jointed legs!
Many other invertebrates live in vernal pools and the surrounding prairie. They belong to various groups. You will meet three of them here but there are dozens more to discover on your own.
The Water Mite has eight legs, so it is grouped with spiders rather than insects. Aquatic Snails are mollusks; like clams they have a shell and no legs at all. Flatworms have no shell and no legs. Several species of flatworms and snails live in vernal pools. Each occupies its own niche in the aquatic food web.
For 2 billion years, bacteria were the only creatures on Earth. Long before the dinosaurs, a special type of bacteria slowly increased the level of oxygen in the Earth’s air to 20 percent. Without this oxygen other plants and animals could not have evolved, including us.