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Insects & Invertebrates

Invertebrates are animals without a backbone. Hundreds of species of invertebrates live in the Chesapeake Bay.

Some invertebrates, like oysters and blue crabs, are well-known and easy to recognize. Others, like worms and copepods, are some of the most abundant animals in the Bay, but humans rarely see them. These small invertebrates are an important food source for larger fish and shellfish.

Insects are also invertebrates. Thousands of species of insects live in the Chesapeake Bay region in nearly every habitat, from deep woods to sandy beaches to our own backyards. Insects are a major food source for larger animals, including fish, birds, mammals and reptiles.

Click on the images below to learn about some of the insects and invertebrates that live in the Chesapeake Bay.

Insects are found in nearly every habitat across the watershed, both on land and in the water. Some people may think insects are gross or scary, but they are an important part of the food web for fish, birds, mammals and reptiles.


Arthropods have an external skeleton—or exoskeleton—that they molt to grow. Crustaceans like crabs, shrimp and barnacles are the Bay's most common arthropods. Horseshoe crabs are arthropods, but not crustaceans: they are more closely related to spiders and scorpions.


Mollusks include bivalves, gastropods (snails) and cephalopods (squid). Most mollusks have at least one shell that protects and supports the animal’s soft body. They also have a foot, which allows them to move.


Invertebrates make up the most diverse and abundant species on Earth. Worms, sponges, corals, tunicates and echinoderms are just a few of the many other types of invertebrates that live in the Bay.




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