Invertebrates are the most diverse group of animals on the planet with over 1.25 million species currently named and described. The actual number of living invertebrate species is probably much higher, with likely millions of other species yet to be discovered. In this article we learn about this type of animal and look at a wide variety of examples of invertebrates, along with pictures and facts about each one.
But first let’s learn a little bit more about invertebrates.
What is an invertebrate?
Invertebrates are any living animal that lack a vertebral column or spine. This includes insects, jellyfish, squids and octopuses, sponges, mollusks, worms, crustaceans, and coral.
Read on for 30 examples of invertebrates.
30 examples of invertebrates
The following list of invertebrates is a combination of all of the different types of invertebrates I mentioned above.
1. Giant Pacific octopus
Scientific name: Enteroctopus dofleini
The Giant Pacific octopus is a large, sea-dwelling invertebrate native to the cool waters of the Northern Pacific ocean. Giant Pacific octopuses are incredibly intelligent and have been known to make complicated escapes from their enclosures while in captivity. These large cephalopods have 8 arms that can reach out to up to 14 feet across.
There are many species of Ladybugs, which are small beetles known for their black spots on red wings in North America and Europe. In addition to being nice to look at, Ladybugs are also excellent in helping to manage pests like aphids in your garden. It is also said that they bring good luck when they land on you.
3. American bumble bee
Scientific name: Bombus pensylvanicus
American bumble bees are well known for their fuzzy, black and yellow bodies that float almost clumsily through the air. These bees are pollinators and help to promote the growth and health of flowering plants. American bumblebees can be found from the mid-Atlantic coast down and west as far as Texas.
4. American lobster
Scientific name: Homarus americanus
The American lobster is the largest by weight of all crustaceans with very large individuals growing to be as heavy as 44 pounds! These giant invertebrates are also a popular item on the menu at seafood restaurants. American lobsters live in the north Atlantic Ocean where they prefer shallow, rocky waters with plenty of places to hide.
5. Deer tick
Scientific name: Ixodes scapularis
Deer ticks are parasitic invertebrates that feast on the blood of mammals, especially deer. These parasites are the most common carriers of Lyme disease in North America which is why it is so important to check yourself for ticks after spending time in wooded areas, especially during the summer. Deer ticks occur throughout almost the entire eastern United States and southeastern Canada.
6. Arizona bark scorpion
Scientific name: Centruroides sculpturatus
The Arizona bark scorpion is thought to be the most venomous scorpion in North America. Luckily, the effects of their venom are rarely fatal and typically only cause pain, tingling and numbness in their victims. These scorpions can be found in the arid climate of the southwestern United States as well as Mexico.
7. Luna moth
Scientific name: Actias luna
Luna moths are an impressive species of moth due to their large size and stunning, bright green wings. Their wings can be up to 7 inches across and they are one of the largest species of moth in North America. They are found east of the Great Plains, eastern Canada, and as far south as Florida.
8. Black widow
Scientific name: Latrodectus spp.
There are actually several species of Black widow spiders, however some are more brown than black. Typically Black widows have a red marking in the shape of an hourglass on their back, making them easy to identify from other spiders. These spiders have a potent venom that can be harmful to humans. Black widows are found on every continent besides Antarctica.
9. Banana slug
Scientific name: Ariolimax spp.
As the name would suggest, the Banana slug is typically bright yellow but can sometimes have brown, white or black spots or markings. These slimy invertebrates like to live in cool, damp habitats in the western United States and British Columbia, Canada.
10. Moon jellyfish
Scientific name: Aurelia aurita
If you have ever been to an aquarium, you have likely seen a Moon jelly as they are commonly on display. Like other species of jellyfish, the Moon jelly has limited mobility and gets around by being pushed and pulled by ocean currents. This species is tolerant of cool temperatures and is found in the North Atlantic.
11. Giant squid
Scientific name: Architeuthis dux
Giant squid are as mysterious as they are large and can grow to be anywhere between 33 and 43 feet long. These marine invertebrates live very deep in the ocean and are rarely seen. In fact, the first picture taken of a Giant squid wasn’t until 2004! Scientists believe that Giant squids are widely distributed throughout the world’s oceans, however they tend to avoid tropical waters.
12. Blue Morpho butterfly
Scientific name: Morpho spp.
Known for their strikingly beautiful blue wings, Blue Morphos can be found floating around in the Amazon rainforest. Interestingly enough, their wings aren’t actually colored blue via pigmentation, instead, the tiny scales on their wings are reflective which give their wings an iridescent blue color.
13. Coconut crab
Scientific name: Birgus latro
The Coconut crab is the largest species of terrestrial or land dwelling invertebrate and is actually a species of hermit crab. However unlike other hermit crabs, once they reach adulthood, they do not actually need the safety of shell as their exoskeleton is tough and rigid enough to protect them. These giant crabs can be as heavy as 9 pounds and are found in coastal areas in Africa, India and several islands in the Pacific.
14. American Horseshoe crab
Scientific name: Limulus polyphemus
Despite their name implying that these invertebrates are crabs, they are actually more closely related to ticks or spiders. However, like crabs, Horseshoe are marine organisms that can also survive on land for short durations of time. The American Horseshoe crab is native to the United States along the Atlantic Coast and can also be found in the Gulf of Mexico.
There are thousands of species of mosquitoes, many of which feed on the blood of animals and humans. In fact, they are arguably one of the most dangerous animals in the world due to their ability to carry and transmit sometimes deadly diseases such as Malaria, Dengue Fever, and West Nile virus. Mosquitoes can be found on every continent except for Antarctica.
Scientific name: Vespula spp. or Dolichovespula spp.
Yellowjackets are a type of predatory wasps known for a fierce attitude and their aggressive disposition when agitated. While they don’t have the best reputation amongst humans, these wasps are actually very important due to their diet of pest insects. Yellowjackets occur almost all over the world aside from Antarctica.
17. Dog whelk
Scientific name: Nucella lapillus
If you have scoured the tide-pools of the Atlantic ocean, then you have likely encountered a Dog whelk. Dog whelks are small gastropods, or snails that inhabit a pointed shell. They are carnivorous and use their specialized tongue or radula to feast on barnacles and mussels.
18. Northern Pacific Seastar
Scientific name: Asterias amurensis
The Northern Pacific Seastar is a species of cold-water seastar also known as starfish that is native to the northern Pacific Ocean and can be found in shallow waters off the coast of Alaska, Canada and Asia. However, these sea stars are now considered an invasive species in the warmer waters off the coast of Australia and are responsible for disrupting native marine ecosystems.
19. Tiger Beetle
Like many other types of beetle, there are actually numerous different species of Tiger Beetle. In fact, there are over 2,500 different species currently known that occur all over the world. This family of invertebrates are known for their ability to scurry along at impressive speed. When in pursuit of their prey, Tiger Beetles can run as fast as nearly six miles per hour!
20. Portuguese man o’ war
Scientific name: Physalia physalis
Well known for their bright purple and blue tentacles, the Portuguese man o’ war is a type of jellyfish that is capable of delivering very painful and occasionally fatal stings. These jellyfish are common in tropical or subtropical waters and it is not uncommon to see them washed up on the beach. Even after being washed up on the shore they are still dangerous and able to sting.
21. Rhinoceros beetle
Rhinoceros beetles are a type of scarab beetle that get their name for their rhinoceros-like strength as well as the presence of a horn on their head. These beetles can lift or carry objects up to 850 times their body weight- talk about heavy lifting! There are over 1,500 species of Rhinoceros beetles described, many of them occurring in Asia.
22. Goliath birdeater
Scientific name: Theraphosa blondi
If you are afraid of spiders, then you certainly would not want to encounter a Goliath birdeater. They’re named for their large size and ability to take down and consume birds. These giant tarantulas have a body length legs excluded of up to 5 inches long and are the heaviest spider in the world, weighing up to 6 ounces. Goliath birdeaters are native to South America and live in the rainforest.
Nudibranchs are a fascinating group of marine invertebrates with over 3,000 different species. These strange little invertebrates are related to snails, however they shed their shells early on in their life. Nudibranchs come in vibrant colors and patterns and also have tentacles on their head or along their body that they use to touch, taste and smell.
24. Atlas moth
Scientific name: Attacus atlas
Atlas moths are a gorgeous species of moth with striking patterns that stretch across their impressive wingspan. Their wings are often as long as 9.4 inches across, making them one of the largest species of moth in the world. Atlas moths are native to forests in South Asia and Southeast Asia.
25. Red swamp crayfish
Scientific name: Procambarus clarkii
Well known for being a popular food in the south, the Red swamp crayfish is a freshwater crustacean that prefers warm, slow-moving streams. Red swamp crayfish create burrows in muddy streambanks and can actually be quite territorial and may fight off other crayfish. These crustaceans are native to the southern United States and are also invasive in Asia, Africa and Europe.
26. Weaver ant
Scientific name: Oecophylla spp.
Weaver ants are an impressive group of ants known for creating well-constructed nests made from several leaves woven together using a silk produced by the ants. They are native to Africa and Southeast Asia, where they act as a natural pest control around agricultural fields. Weaver ants are arboreal and create their nests high up in the trees.
27. Praying mantis
There are over 2,400 species of Praying mantis, all of which are known for their impressive praying posture. These insects are expert hunters that will use their long legs to ambush their prey by quickly reaching out to grab them. Not only are they fierce hunters, but female mantises are ruthless lovers and often eat their mates after copulation.
28. Sea sponge
There are anywhere between 5,000 and 10,000 species of Sea sponge. While they are similar to plants in the fact that they are sedentary organisms, Sea sponges are actually animals. Their bodies are filled with small holes or pores that allows water to pass through them and obtain food and water.
There are thousands of species of corals that inhabit tropical and subtropical waters. Corals form colonies that in turn create coral reefs which are a very important ecosystem for many species of marine life. Each piece of coral has several to hundreds of thousands of small animals called polyps that eat through filter feeding.
30. Queen conch
Scientific name: Aliger gigas
The Queen conch is a large species of sea snail that inhabits a seemingly plain shell on the outside, however once they are flipped over their shells display a mix of sunset-like colors. Conchs are interesting snails that have large eye stalks that can often be seen protruding outside of their shell. They can be found in the warm waters of the Caribbean in sandy shoals.