Tag Archive: Invertebrates

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda (insects, arachnids, and crustaceans)
Class: Insecta
Order: Blattodea (cockroaches and the termites)
Family: Blaberidae (giant cockroaches)

Genus/species: Blaberus giganteus 

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS: They have three pairs of legs, and two pairs of wings, the forewings being light brown in colour. Largest neotropical cockroach by weight. A giant cockroach has a flattened, oval body, about 9 cm (3.5 inches) long and 4 cm (1.5 inches) wide. Females are slightly larger than males. They commonly run along the ground, although the adults have wings that are rarely if ever used for flight. They have long, very slender antennae and two sensory organs, called cerci, at the tip of the abdomen.

Blaberus giganteus 3445478500_7a02fcb067_b

DISTRIBUTION/HABITAT: Central and South America. They prefer dark, damp locations such as caves, rock crevices, tree hollows, and spaces under loose tree bark.

Blaberus giganteus 3775296951_fd8e873273_b

DIET IN THE WILD: Cockroaches are omnivores and detritivores. Common diet includes bat guano, rotting wood, fruit, seeds, decomposing vegetation, dead insects, and other animals. They help recycle decaying matter on the ground into useful nutrients for plants. 

REPRODUCTION: Females emit a pheromone that induces males to mate. Male courtship rituals include raising wings at right angles to abdomen and making trembling movements with abdomen. After mating, the female B. giganteus will be pregnant for life producing eggs which turn into nymphs which later become adults.

Blaberus giganteus 3779077163_a2d1b493c7_b-2

MORTALITY/LONGEVITY: They can live about 20 months as adults.

PREDATORS:  Army ants kill and eat nymphs.

CONSERVATION:  IUCN: Not Listed; CITES: Not Listed  

Cockroaches dates back over 200-300 million years, and are very adaptable and resilient animals.

REMARKS:  The leg bristles and antennae are used for seeing and feeling, in their dark habitat, while their flat bodies enable them to hide in crevices and underneath rocks. Cockroaches do not have lungs to breathe, but instead they take air in through spiracles, which are tiny holes on the sides of their bodies, and are used to send oxygen to other parts of the body. This allows the cockroach to survive for a period of time without its head, until it dies of infection, starvation or dehydration. When threatened, the giant cockroach is able to produce a foul smell to ward off predators. 

Location: Rainforest Costa Rica CR04 


Toronto Zoo http://www.torontozoo.com/ExploretheZoo/AnimalDetails.asp?pg=445

Encyclopedia of Life  eol.org/pages/1075061/details

Sreng, L. 1993. Cockroach Mating Behaviours, Sex-Pheromones, and Abdominal Glands (Dictyoptera, Blaberidae). Journal of Insect Behaviour. 6: 715-735.

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Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Arachnida
Order: Araneae
Suborder: Araneomorphae (fangs slope towards each other in a pinching action)
Family: Nephilidae

Genus/species; Nephila Clavipes

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS; Orb-weavers are highly sexually dimorphic. Females grow up to 8 cm (3 in), and are 5 to 6 times larger than males. Adults are mostly yellow with elongated abdomen and long, hairy legs. This spider lives in hot places. The long cylindrical abdomen of the spider may be angled towards the sun to reduce the amount of exposed body surface and thus prevent overheating. The reflective silvery surface of much of the body serves the same purpose.

Nephila Clavipes   5389185249_24cf049f4f_b 

DISTRIBUTION/HABITAT: These spiders are found from the southeastern United States south through Argentina and Peru. They prefer areas of high humidity and forest areas along trails and clearing edges. N. clavipes is the only member of its genus known in the Western Hemisphere.

DIET IN THE WILD: They feed on small flying insects: beetles, flies, moths, etc., that are captured in their web. After prey is entangled in the web, the spider incapacitates it by biting and then encases it in silk.


REPRODUCTION: Mating is a tricky proposition for orb weaving males. For successful reproduction, males must successfully stimulate females in order to prevent being a meal for their would-be mate, though this unfortunate ending is relatively rare with this species.

MORTALITY/LONGEVITY: Life span: a single season (1 year).


•Orb weavers construct webs for defense and capture of prey.

•The silk of the web usually has a golden color that is visible to the naked eye and is the source of the common name.

•The impressive web of most orb weavers is a semi-permanent structure, repaired and rebuilt daily as necessary.

•Spiders from the Nephilia species on display from Madagascar are sometimes released into the Rainforest exhibit. They have settled in a territory behind the exhibit and observable from the spiral ramp. Only females are released as 1) they are much larger than the males and so more visible and 2) the Rainforest biologists have no interest in the uncontrolled breeding of these spiders in the exhibit!

Rainforest Costa Rica CR03


California Academy of Sciences docent Rainforest Training Manual 2014

Animal Diversity Web animaldiversity.org/accounts/Nephila_clavipes/

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Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Arachnida
Order: Araneae
Suborder: Araneomorphae (fangs slope towards each other in a pinching action)
Family: Nephilidae

Genus/species: Nephila madagascariensis


GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS: They have striped legs specialized for weaving (where their tips point inward, rather than outward as is the case with many wandering spiders). In females, the dorsal side of the abdomen has bright yellow markings surrounded by a light gray border. The rest of the body and legs are black with patches of brown. 4.8 – 5.1 cm (1.5 – 2 in) in females, not including leg span, with males being usually 2/3 smaller (less than 2.5 cm, 1 in). Named for yellow threads of their web shine like gold in sunlight not the color of the spider.

DISTRIBUTION/HABITAT: Various species of orb weaving spiders are widely distributed. They exist in the southern United States, Central and South America, Southeast Asia, and the South Pacific. Nephila madagascariensis madagascariensis is found on the island of Madagascar and certain parts of Southern Africa. 

Spinning web below

Golden Orb16121279421_89d739a11a_o

DIET IN THE WILD: Eat insects that get caught in their webs, primarily flying insects. They kill their prey with a venomous bite. While painful, a bite from this spider would not seriously hurt humans.

Golden Orb Weaver

LONGEVITY:: Females usually live about a year, and males about 6 mos.

REMARKS: Golden orb spiders weave large, strong webs out of golden-colored silk which can be as big as 2 m across. The silk strands are reputed to be five times stronger than steel and three times more elastic than Kevlar.
The oldest surviving genus of spiders, with a fossilized specimen known from 165 million years ago.

Rainforest, Madagascar


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California Academy of Sciences: Madagascar Golden Orb Spider exhibit 2014

 iNaturalist www.inaturalist.org/taxa/49758-Nephila

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Echinodermata
Class: Holothuroideaia
Order: Aspidochirotida
Family: Stichopodidae

Genus/species: Parastichopus parvimensis

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS: Colored brown above, lighter below. Conical black-tipped papillae on the dorsal side provide the common name. The mouth and anus are on opposite ends of their cylindrical bodies. Tube feet aide in gathering food as well as ambulating.Length to 25 cm (10 inches). 

DISTRIBUTION/HABITAT: Monterey Bay, California to Baja California. Found on sandy or muddy-sandy soft bottoms between rocks or in eelgrass beds. Sub tidal to 27 m (89 feet) in depth.

DIET: Digests organic detritus and small organisms in soft sediments.

REPRODUCTION?DEVELOPMENT: Have separate sexes (look-alike), and eggs are fertilized externally. Broadcast spawning usually takes place in November, and each female can produce thousands of eggs. After fertilization, a larva is formed which metamorphoses into a Sea Cucumber after a few weeks.

MORTALITY/LONGEVITY: Eaten by sea stars including the sunflower star. Sea otters and humans are also predators. Lifespan estimated to be 5-10 years in the wild.

CONSERVATION: IUCN Red list; Not Evaluated

REMARKS: Holothuroids differ from echinoderms, because they have a water vascular system full of body fluid rather than sea water.  Like other echinoderms, cucumbers have a calcareous skeleton; but in their case it is only vestigial, composed of plates and spicules of lime buried in the skin and serving merely to stiffen the body wall. Respiratory trees are the lungs of a sea cucumber. These hollow branched organs lie inside the body cavity on either side of the posterior intestine. The base of the tree connects to a muscular cavity, or cloaca. Oxygen is transferred across the thin membrane into the fluids of the body cavity. When the oxygen is depleted, the main body wall contracts to squeeze water out of the trees. 
When threatened, it can expel all its internal organs through its anus (evisceration) and grow new ones in 2-4 weeks. It can also expel sticky filaments to ensnare or confuse predators. Warty sea cucumbers and their related species are sometimes called the “earthworms of the sea,” as they cultivate the seafloor in much the same manner as earthworms cultivate the soil. Oral tube feet around the mouth are covered with a sticky mucus that traps food particles from the seafloor’s sediment and mud. In areas where overfishing has reduced the population of sea cucumbers, the seafloor hardens, thus destroying a habitat for other bottom-dwelling creatures. Can walk on tube feet if stressed up to one yard every 15 min..Humans eat a variety of sea cucumber species, including Warty sea cucumbers. The demand is greatest in Asian countries, for consumption and folk medicine applications. It is considered to be widely overfished.




Parastichopus parvimensisIMG_8852 - Version 2



ADW Animal Diversity Web, U. of Michigan  http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/accounts/Parastichopus_parvimensis/

Encyclopedia of Life  eol.org/pages/597920/details

Monterey Bay Aquarium  www.montereybayaquarium.org/animal-guide/invertebrates/wa…

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Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Echinodermata
Class: Echinoidea (Sea urchins)
Subclass: Cidaroidea
Order: Cidaroida
Family: Cidaridae

Genus/species: Eucidaris tribuloides

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS: Brown body with thick spines in all directions. 

Slate Pencil UrchinIMG_1479

DISTRIBUTION/HABITAT: North Carolina through Brazil, Caribbean, Bahamas, Florida. Found in coral reef crevices, in turtle grass beds, or under rocks and rubble in back reef lagoon areas. Depth to 800 m (usually 50 m). 



Slate Pencil UrchinIMG_1478

DIET IN THE WILD: Nocturnal omnivore: algae and small invertebrates such as sea squirts and sponges.

Slate Pencil UrchinIMG_0664

REMARKS: The spines of pencil urchins, unlike other urchin groups, are not covered with epidermis. They are, however, often covered with algae and epizoans that provide excellent camouflage. Spines are also covered with barbs that can inflict serious pain to a predator. Seek shelter in rocky crevices by day, using the thick spines to maintain a protected position.


Encyclopedia of life eol.org/pages/600976/details

Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute 


Animal Diversity Web animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/accounts/Eucidaris_tribulo…

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Caribbean  PR36

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Echinodermata
Class: Echinoidea
Order: Diadematoida
Family: Diadematidae

Genus/species: Diadema setosum

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS:  Usually black but some or all of them can be grey or white. Very long, black spines are up to 30 cm (1.1 inches). Orange-red ring around anal cone at the center of its dorsal surface is distinctive. Weight 35 gm (1.25 oz) to 80 gm (2.8 oz).  Adult test to 9 cm (3.5 inches) diameter with a distinct pattern of iridophores, usually with 5 white dots.  Height to around 40 mm (1.5 inches) high. 


DISTRIBUTION/HABITAT: Red Sea, east Africa to western Pacific (Philippines) in low tide areas to 20 m (66 ft) on rubble and seagrasses. Often abundant in shallow water areas that have been recently disturbed. Also in lagoons and on coral and rocky reefs.


DIET IN THE WILD: Herbivore. Hides during the day, and emerges at night to feed on algae, plankton, and waste material. Its feeding habits help keep the reef free from coral-smothering algae; however, too many of these algal-eating machines can actually threaten a reef, scraping away living coral as they devour algae and leaving little food for other herbivores.

CONSERVATION: IUCN Red List ; not evaluated.

REMARKS: Uses hundreds of flexible, tube feet to move around, eat and breathe.

The venom is mild and causes swelling and pain, and gradually diffuses over several hours. Tiny hooked barbs often require surgical removal.

Commensal with a number of species, including various shrimps and fishes.


Sea-grass shallows PR03a


Encyclopedia of Life  eol.org/pages/2942801/details

Archive www.arkive.org/long-spined-sea-urchin/diadema-setosum/

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Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Echinodermata (“spiny-skinned” animals including sea stars, brittle stars, sea urchins, sand dollars, and sea cucumbers)
Class: Echinoidea  (sea urchins and sand dollars)
Order: Clypeasteroida
Suborder: Scutellina
Family: Dendrasteridae

Genus/species: Dendraster excentricus

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS: Closely related to sea urchins, except for a more flattened, silver-dollar skeleton (test).
The tube feet, characteristic of echinoderms, are used for locomotion, respiration, sensing the environment, grasping and transporting food particles to the centrally located mouth on the underside of the test, and attachment to the substrate. The anus is near the edge of the test.
Very short spines which are covered with tiny hair-like cilia are closely packed together on the surface which feels like velvet.
Diameter to 8 cm (3.2 inches).

Eccentric Sand Dollar 3289660142_4458838cfd_b

DISTRIBUTION/HABITAT: Southeastern Alaska to Baja California. Found in subtidal to low intertidal zone on sandy or sandy-muddy substrates in cool water near the shore, but deep enough to avoid wave surge. Depth to 40 m (131 feet) but usually shallower.

Eccentric Sand Dollar 3427754072_18f944b159_b

DIET IN THE WILD:  They are oriented flat or more often vertical with entire bed oriented the same way to catch phytoplankton detritus, diatoms, and plankton such as crab larvae and amphipods. They are captured by mucous-covered spines and pincers (pedicillariae). Food particles are then carried to the mouth in the center of the lower body surface by cilia on spines where it is broken up by jaws of a small aristotle’s lantern. The tube feet are also used for grasping and transporting food.

REPRODUCTION: Broadcast spawner. Sperm and eggs are released from separate individuals. After fertilization, free-swimming bilateral larvae form, which eventually change to radially symmetrical individuals that settle to a sandy or muddy substrate similar to sea urchins.

Longevity: averages 10 years.

PREDATORS: Fish, sea stars, crabs, humans.

CONSERVATION: IUCN; Not evaluated.

REMARKS:  Cilia covered spines are used in wave-like motions for movement and burrowing. Tube feet away from the mouth are also used for locomotion. 
Young sand dollars ingest large sand grains that act like a diver’s weight belt to help them maintain position.
The age a sand dollar can be determined by counting the growth rings on the plates of the exoskeleton.


U. of Michigan (ADW) Animal Diversity Web  http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/accounts/Dendraster_excentricus/ 

Walla Walla University  http://www.wallawalla.edu/academics/departments/biology/rosario/inverts/Echinodermata/Class%20Echinoidea/Dendraster_excentricus.html 

Monterey Bay Aquarium  http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/animal-guide/invertebrates/sand-dollar

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Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Cnidaria
Class: Anthozoa
Order: Actiniaria
Family: Actiniidae

Genus/species: Urticina lofotensis

 GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS: Column diameter to 10 cm (4 inches), height to 15 cm (6 inches). Column bright scarlet or crimson with white warty spots in longitudinal rows; tentacles slender, elongate, scarlet to crimson.

 White-spotted Rose Anemone3005754146_b9c9c195c5_o

DISTRIBUTION/HABITAT: SE Alaska to San Diego, CA. Found on rocks and walls of surge channels, low intertidal to 15 m (49 feet) on exposed outer coast.

 DIET IN THE WILD: Carnivorous.

REMARKS: Shells or debris rarely found adhered to the tubercles. Juvenile painted greenlings and adults may sleep near its base.


 eol eol.org/pages/2549638/details

 Walla Walla Universitywww.wallawalla.edu/academics/departments/biology/rosario/…

 Washing state Universitywww.beachwatchers.wsu.edu/ezidweb/animals/Urticinalofoten…

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Location; California Rocky Coast, Giants, Octopus exhibit

Kingdom: Animalia (animals)
Phylum: Cnidaria
Class: Anthozoa
Subclass: Ceriantipatharia,
Order: Ceriantharia
Family: Cerianthidae

Genus/species: Pachycerianthus fimbriatus

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS: Solitary tube to 35 cm (14 inches) long when expanded. The tough, slippery, black, secreted tube projects above the mud substrate. Tentacular crown with two circles of translucent whitish to brown-gold tentacles. The inner
circle usually held over the mouth, the outer circle projecting up or out. Like most anemones, the tube-dwelling anemone contains stinging cells or nematocytes along its tentacles.

Tube Anemone  3236526239_4f6bd4f600_o

DISTRIBUTION/HABITAT: California (total distribution poorly known). Fairly common in soft mud bottoms of bays and harbors and protected sandy substrates of the outer coast. Low intertidal and subtidal in S. California; subtidal only in N. California to at least 54 m (177 feet).

Tube Anemone 3288842115_73a426d48d_b

DIET IN THE WILD: Small invertebrates, hydromedusae, small crustaceans and plankton

PREDATORS: Barber slugs clip off its tentacles, resulting in P. fimbriatus retreating quickly down the tube—sometimes pulling the slug in with it. The tentacles grow back after an attack.

REMARKS: Unlike sea anemones the anal pore is at the end of the body.


eol eol.org/pages/199417/details

 Walla Walla Universitywww.wallawalla.edu/academics/departments/biology/rosario/…

 Monterey Bay Aquarium www.montereybayaquarium.org/animal-guide/invertebrates/tu…

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Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Mollusca:
Class: Gastropoda  (snails and slugs)
Order: Vetigastropoda:  (primitive group of sea snails)
Family: Trochidae (“top snails”, because in many species the shell is shaped like a toy top)

Genus/species: Norrisia norrisi

Red Foot Moon Snail Norrisia norrisi IMG_7601

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS: Smooth brown shell that ranges in size from a few mm to 55mm or 2 inches.

DISTRIBUTION/HABITAT: Eastern Pacific found on kelp from Point Conception to Baja California, May live in water 15-24°C or 59 to 75°F.

DIET IN THE WILD: The Norris’ top snail feeds mainly on brown algae but in aquariums they use their file-like tongue or radula to eat most types of algae helping to keep the aquarium clean.

PREADATORS: Commonly eaten by seastars.

REMARKS: Used to help control algae in the Philippine coral reef. PR04


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