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
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
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.