Invertebrates

Animals without backbones make up a huge percentage of the ocean’s biodiversity. They aren’t just small (like pteropods) or squishy (like jellyfish); the giant squid and corals that build huge reefs are also invertebrates.

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Marine parasites may be small in size, but they can be present in very high numbers and put together can weigh even more than all the top predators in an estuary or bay ecosystem!...
During the summer of 1998, scientists at the Virginia Institute of Marine...
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The blanket octopus can rip a poisonous tentacle from a Portuguese man-o-war...
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Hyperiid amphipods are small crustaceans related to sand fleas and distantly...

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Census of Marine Life researchers discovered this unusual transparent sea cucumber ( Enypniastes sp.) in the Gulf of Mexico at 2,750 meters depth. It creeps forward on its tentacles pretty slowly, at around 2 centimeters per...
Smaller than the head of a pin, this arrow squid (Doryteuthis plei ) embryo...
What are corals? Corals themselves are animals. But tropical reef-building...

DIVE DEEPER

Jellyfish and comb jellies are gelatinous animals that drift through the ocean's water column around the world. They are...
This transparent cockatoo squid ( Leachia sp.), also known as a glass squid, lives in the depths of the ocean and has many adaptations to help it survive there. It retains ammonia solutions inside...
It’s an honor to have something or someone named after you. Dr. David Pawson , Senior Research Scientist and Curator of Echinoderms at NMNH, has several genera and species, living and fossil, named...
Talk about an investment! This octopus mom protected her brood of about 160 eggs for 4.5 years for the longest ever recorded brooding time of any animal. She was first observed by scientists from the...
Glowing photophores are visible on this midwater squid ( Abralia veranyi ) viewed from below at low light levels. We think of light as a way to see in the dark. But many species use it to help them...
Ochre seastars ( Pisaster ochraceus ) feed on invertebrates, such as coral and shellfish, like the mussels pictured here. The starfish forces open the shell with suction disks on the underside of its...
Named for the radiant blue color on its back and sides, the blue shark ( Prionace glauca ) traverses the world’s temperate and tropical seas. Known for traveling great distances and being a swift...
The shrimp shown in this picture is a lot smaller then it looks- most adult anemone shrimp will only grow to about ½-1 inches long. Anemone shrimp ( Periclimenes inornatus ), reside as the name...
How does a coral spend its day? Most of us would say: not doing much. To the human eye, a coral looks relatively still, waiting in the current and hoping some food will run into its tentacles. But...
Deep-sea corals miles away from the source of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010 were impacted by the plumes. One affected site was 13.7 miles (22 km) away from the Macondo wellhead—the farthest...
The veined octopus ( Amphioctopus marginatus ), also known as the coconut octopus, has a skill beyond other cephalopods: it hides under animal and coconut shells, dragging them along the seafloor for...
In this episode of the Podcast of Life , host Ari Daniel Shapiro dives deep to discover a white worm as tall as your refrigerator that breathes through bright red feathery "lips." This isn’t a...
The whitish spots on this fish are individual parasitic trematode worms. Trematodes have complicated life cycles that usually involve multiple hosts -- often starting in a snail and then moving on to...
A coral hermit crab, Paguritta harmsi , about the size of two grains of rice, living in coral in the waters of Japan's Ogasawara Islands.
By Emily Frost Jellyfish aren't the passive creatures you think they are. While they appear to simply drift through the ocean, letting the currents take them where they may, they can also swim up and...
This 200-year-old bamboo coral colony is growing on the Davidson Seamount off the coast of California. The skeleton of this deep-sea coral has bamboo-like segments. See more pictures of coral in our...
Collect, sort, identify, photograph, sample, record. Repeat a couple thousand times. This is what the students and researchers have been doing as the Indonesian Biodiversity Research Center (IBRC)...
Humans have long been captivated by what we now call the giant squid ( Architeuthis ). This image gallery gives a glimpe into our fascination with the animal. For a long time, people saw mysterious...
Ultraviolet light illuminates the growth rings in a cross-section of a 44-year-old deep-sea coral ( Primnoa resedaeformis ) collected off the coast of Newfoundland at about 1,300 feet (400 meters)...
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