Invertebrates

Find content specifically related to invertebrates of the Puget Sound and Salish Sea ecosystems. For checklists and descriptive accounts of individual species, visit our species library. 

 

RELATED ARTICLES

Benthic invertebrates range in size from those easily seen with the naked eye to those that cannot be spotted without the use of a microscope. Photo: Christopher Dunagan
1/17/2017

Healthy stream, healthy bugs

Many groups have been formed around the goal of saving salmon, but few people talk about a concerted effort to save microscopic creatures. Whether or not a pro-bug movement catches on, future strategies to save salmon are likely to incorporate ideas for restoring streambound creatures known as benthic invertebrates.

Sunflower sea stars have all but disappeared from the Salish Sea due to sea star wasting disease. Photo courtesy of PLOS ONE
10/31/2016

Devastating transboundary impacts of sea star wasting disease on subtidal asteroids

A study in the journal PLOS ONE uses volunteer diver surveys to assess the impacts of sea star wasting disease in the Salish Sea. Data shows that sunflower sea stars were especially hard hit and have all but disappeared from the region. 

Bay Mussels (Mytilus trossulus) on Edmonds Ferry Dock. Photo [cropped]: brewbooks (CC BY-SA 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/brewbooks/8840874065
10/10/2016

Salish Sea snapshots: Mussel memory

Scientists are testing ways to use transplanted shellfish such as mussels to monitor toxic contaminants in Puget Sound. 

Carcinus maenas. Photo: Brent Wilson (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/59048895@N06/5409329320/
9/23/2016

Second invasive green crab found in Puget Sound

Another European green crab has been spotted in Puget Sound prompting concern that the species may gain a foothold in the region. 

2013 Swinomish Tribe clam bake. Photo: Copyright Northwest Treaty Tribes https://www.flickr.com/photos/nwifc/9517621153
8/31/2016

Clam hunger

Social scientists around the Salish Sea are predicting the effects of environmental change through the lens of culturally important foods.

Carcinus maenas. Photo: Brent Wilson (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/59048895@N06/5409329320/
8/2/2016

Green crabs could impair Puget Sound shellfish operations

Concerns over the potential arrival of the European green crab have inspired a small army of volunteers. A search is underway for early signs of an invasion.

The Tufted Puffin is among 125 species of concern found in the Salish Sea. Photo: Peter Hodum.
4/20/2016

The growing number of species of concern in the Salish Sea suggests ecosystem decay is outpacing recovery

The number of species of concern in the Salish Sea is growing at an average annual rate of 2.6%, according to a report published in the proceedings of the 2016 Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference in Vancouver, B.C.

Black Scoter (Melanitta negra), one of seven new birds added to a Salish Sea-wide list of species of concern. Photo courtesy of USGS.
4/16/2016

Conference snapshot: The number of species of concern in the Salish Sea is growing steadily

The number of species of concern in the Salish Sea is growing at an average annual rate of 2.6%, according to a report published in the proceedings of the 2016 Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference in Vancouver, B.C.

Killer whales and boat in Puget Sound. Photo courtesy of NOAA.
4/15/2016

Conference snapshot: Listening to the Salish Sea

Scientists are realizing that underwater noise in the Salish Sea affects a broad range of species, even plankton. Read a Q & A with the organizers of the session 'From plankton to whales: underwater noise and its impacts on marine life.'

Sternaspis affinis
3/21/2016

The dumbbell worm

The genus Sternaspis is comprised of sedentary invertebrates with short and thick anterior setae. The dumbbell worm (Sternaspis affinis) can be found on the West Coast of North America, from Alaska to the Gulf of California.

British Columbian Doto
3/21/2016

Sea slugs: The British Columbian Doto

The Doto is a species of sea slug, also known as a nudibranch. It is a marine gastropod in the family Dotidae. This species was first discovered in British Columbia and has been reported as far south as Santa Barbara, California.

Cactus worm
3/19/2016

The cactus worm

Priapula are a small phylum of small, worm-like animals found in Puget Sound. They occur in most seas, both tropical and polar, at a variety of depths, from shallow coastal waters to as far down as 7,200 meters. 

Stylatula elongata
3/16/2016

The slender sea pen

Sea pens are marine cnidarians that belong to the order Pennatulacea. They are colonial organisms, composed of specialized polyps.

2003 Seattle Marathon - Seward Park Photo: J Brew (CC BY-SA 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/brewbooks/1282527696
2/17/2016

Cleaning up Lake Washington

Lake Washington was heavily contaminated by untreated sewage until extensive pollution controls by the city of Seattle. 

A graph shows an increase in published papers related to anthropogenic noise
2/11/2016

Impacts of anthropogenic noise on marine life: Publication patterns, new discoveries, and future directions in research and management

A 2015 review in Ocean & Coastal Management looks at trends in research related to anthropogenic noise and its affect on a wide variety of marine organisms, from whales and fish to invertebrates. The review includes case studies from the Salish Sea. 

Mist from the breath of killer whales is collected at the end of a long pole then tested for dozens of different types of bacteria. Photo: Pete Schroeder
1/13/2016

Going viral: Concerns rise over potential impacts of disease on the ecosystem

Recent high-profile sewage spills into Puget Sound could mean more pathogens in the environment, prompting us to re-publish this story from 2016. From orcas to starfish to humans, disease affects every living creature in the ecosystem. Scientists are increasingly alarmed by its potential to devastate already compromised populations of species in Puget Sound.  

2015 Puget Sound Fact Book report cover
10/2/2015

2015 Puget Sound Fact Book

The 2015 Puget Sound Fact Book brings together statistics and other information about the health and makeup of the Puget Sound ecosystem. Areas of focus include climate change, geography, water quality, habitats, human dimensions and regional species. The fact book was prepared for the Encyclopedia of Puget Sound with funding from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Puget Sound Partnership.

Puget Sound marine waters 2014 report cover
9/13/2015

2014 Puget Sound Marine Waters Overview

A report from NOAA and the Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program provides an overview of 2014 marine water quality and conditions in Puget Sound from comprehensive monitoring and observing programs.

2007 Puget Sound Update report cover page
7/13/2015

2007 Puget Sound Update

The Puget Sound Update is a technical report that integrates results of PSAMP and other scientific activities in Puget Sound focused on marine life and nearshore habitat, marine and freshwater quality, and toxic contamination.

Fisherman cleaning and filleting a fish. Photo courtesy of NOAA.
7/7/2015

Subsistence fishing in a 21st century capitalist society: From commodity to gift

A 2015 paper in the journal Ecological Economics evaluated “personal use” and subsistence use of seafood among commercial operators in Washington and California, as well as the extent, range, and species diversity of noncommercial wild ocean seafood subsistence harvests. 

B-IBI Results Table screenshot from http://pugetsoundstreambenthos.org/
6/29/2015

Enhancement and standardization of benthic macroinvertebrate monitoring and analysis tools for the Puget Sound region

With funding from an EPA grant from 2010-2014, King County worked with regional partners and experts to enhance data analysis tools and encourage collaboration and standardization for benthic macroinvertebrate monitoring in the Puget Sound region.

Jellyfish surround a floatplane pontoon. Photo courtesy of Washington Department of Ecology.
5/11/2015

Forty years of change in forage fish and jellyfish abundance across greater Puget Sound, Washington (USA): anthropogenic and climate associations

A 2015 paper in the Marine Ecology Press Series reports a trend toward more jellyfish and less of some forage fish species in Puget Sound. The paper analyzes more than 40 years of state data, and assesses potential human causes for the shift.

A great blue heron catching a fish in an estuary. Photo courtesy of NOAA
3/11/2015

Top–down control by great blue herons regulates seagrass-associated epifauna

A 2015 paper in Oikos Journal examines the impacts of great blue heron predation on species diversity in eelgrass meadows in British Columbia. 

Cirratulus spectabilis (Phylum Annelida, Class Polychaeta, Family Cirratulidae) – This polychaete annelid is known as a “sphaghetti worm” because of the tangled mass of branchia (gills) emerging from the segments. These are used for respiration. The number and placement of these are distinctive for each species in this family. (Photo: Maggie Dutch)
1/14/2015

Taxonomic guides to benthic invertebrates of Puget Sound

A 2014 Washington State Department of Ecology report provides a taxonomic guide for Puget Sound sediment-dwelling invertebrates (benthos). Surveys of these species are used to monitor the health of the foodweb, as well as levels of toxic contaminants in the seafloor.

Report cover photo.
1/7/2015

Shellfish restoration and protection in Kitsap Public Health District

A 2014 report by the Kitsap Public Heath District describes the goals and achievements of the Shellfish Restoration and Protection Project including: increasing harvestable shellfish growing areas, establishing a routine shoreline monitoring program, improving water quality, and increasing education of water quality and shellfish protection.

Report cover.
12/14/2014

Reestablishing Olympia oyster populations in Puget Sound, Washington

A 2005 report from the Washington Sea Grant Program describing the history and current state of native Olympia oysters including their ecology, history with human interactions, prefered habitat, and reestablishment efforts in the Puget Sound region.

Olympia oysters. Photo: VIUDeepBay (CC BY 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/viucsr/5778358466
12/11/2014

Gifts from the sea: shellfish as an ecosystem service

The shellfish industry is a cornerstone of the Puget Sound economy, but the region's famed mollusks provide more than just money and jobs. They offer what are called ecosystem services—a wide variety of benefits that humans derive from an ecosystem.

Report cover.
12/10/2014

Native shellfish in nearshore ecosystems of Puget Sound

This 2006 technical report for the Puget Sound Nearshore Partnership describes how shellfish have high ecological, economical, cultural, recreational value, however human activity is threatening their existence by altering their native habitat with changes in land use, shoreline modifications, stormwater, sewage and industrial discharge.

Clam gardens, while all being characterized by a level terrace behind a rock wall in the lower intertidal, are diverse in their shapes and sizes. Photo: Amy S. Groesbeck.Clam gardens, while all being characterized by a level terrace behind a rock wall in the lower intertidal, are diverse in their shapes and sizes.
12/5/2014

Ancient clam gardens of the Northwest Coast of North America

Northwest Coast First Peoples made clam garden terraces to expand ideal clam habitat at tidal heights that provided optimal conditions for clam growth and survival, therefore enhancing food production and increasing food security.

Purple sea star. Photo by brewbooks. Creative commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0).
12/3/2014

Virus associated with sea-star wasting disease

A virus is the likely cause of Sea star die-offs on the Northeast Pacific Coast and in Puget Sound, according to a November 2014 paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Blue mussel, Mytilus edulis. Photo: Andreas Trepte (CC BY-SA-2.5) http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/32/Blue_mussel_Mytilus_edulis.jpg
10/30/2014

Pierce County shellfish watersheds project

A report from the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department describes the results of a project to address threats to water quality in Pierce County, focusing on shellfish areas most at risk.

Inside the Eelgrass beds. Photo: Eric Heupel (CC BY-NC 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/eclectic-echoes/7654885752
8/8/2014

Shedding new light on eelgrass recovery

Scientists say eelgrass, an unassuming flowering plant found just off shore in Puget Sound, is vital to the health of the ecosystem. They also say the plant is declining. New and increasingly urgent efforts to restore it brought a group of researchers to the 2014 Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference.

Amphipholis squamata (Phylum Echinodermata, Class Ophiuroidea) – This is a brittle star, commonly known as the “brooding snake star”. (Sandra Weakland, Brooke McIntyre photo)
6/17/2014

Benthic Invertebrates of Puget Sound

A list of over 1800 benthic infaunal invertebrates is now available on the Encyclopedia of Puget Sound. The list was prepared as part of the Washington State Department of Ecology’s Marine Sediment Monitoring Program (MSMP).  This program, initiated in 1989, is one component of the Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program, a collaborative effort dedicated to monitoring environmental conditions in Puget Sound. 

The Canary Rockfish is one of the 119 species listed in a new paper from the SeaDoc Society as "at risk." Photo by Tippy Jackson, courtesy of NOAA.
5/22/2014

Species of Concern within the Salish Sea nearly double between 2002 and 2013

Approximately every two years, the SeaDoc Society prepares a list of species of concern within the Salish Sea ecosystem. The following paper found 119 species at risk and was presented as part of the proceedings of the 2014 Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference, April 30 – May 2, 2014, Seattle, Washington. 

5/21/2014

Regional investigations into the effects of CECs

Several research groups in the region are investigating biological markers and/or impacts of Contaminant of Emerging Concern (CEC) exposure in different organisms.  An abstract describing each study is included below.  Also included are links or contact details for further information about each project.

2/7/2014

Development of Puget Sound Benthic Indicators

A Washington State Department of Ecology report establishing benthic indicators for Puget Sound. Benthic macrofauna are known to be good indicators of the status of marine environments, and benthic indices are often used as an assessment tool.

Oyster shell cultch containing seed oysters is washed onto a public beach. Image courtesy of WDFW.
1/28/2014

Report: Evaluating the effects of bivalve filter feeding on nutrient dynamics in Puget Sound

A January 2014 USGS report discusses approaches for measuring the effect of bivalves on nutrient availability in different regions of Puget Sound.

Geoduck (Panopea generosa). Image courtesy Washington Sea Grant.
12/8/2013

Effects of geoduck aquaculture on the environment—a synthesis of current knowledge

A November 2013 literature review by Washingtom Sea Grant synthesizes the state of the science of geoduck clams and the potential environmental impacts of geoduck aquaculture in the Puget Sound region.

Surf scoters in Padilla bay, seen through a spotting scope. Photo from the Washington Department of Ecology.
10/30/2013

Surf scoter (Melanitta perspicillata) and prey size

This paper examines the importance of prey size to shifting scoter populations in two bays in north Puget Sound.

Littorina subrotundata. Photo by L. Schroeder.
10/23/2013

Newcomb's Littorine Snail (Littorina subrotundata)

This article was originally published by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife as part of its annual report Threatened and Endangered Wildlife in Washington.

Island marble perched on the host, field mustard (Brassica campestris). Photo by Thor Hansen.
10/23/2013

Island Marble (Euchloe ausonides insulanus)

This article was originally published by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife as part of its annual report Threatened and Endangered Wildlife in Washington.

Taylor's checkerspot. Photo by D. Stinson.
10/22/2013

Taylor's Checkerspot (Euphydryas editha taylori)

This article was originally published by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife as part of its annual report Threatened and Endangered Wildlife in Washington.

Mardon skipper. Photo by Rod Gilbert.
10/16/2013

Mardon Skipper (Polites mardon)

This article was originally published by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife as part of its annual report Threatened and Endangered Wildlife in Washington.

The Seaeye Falcon used by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Photo courtesy WDFW.
10/15/2013

WDFW Remotely Operated Vehicle captures species and habitats on the sea floor

A camera on board a remotely operated vehicle scans the floor of Puget Sound capturing digital video of underwater marine life.  Selected clips of Plumose sea anemones, Pacific halibut, Pacific cod, Sea stars, and North Pacific spiny dogfish are now available for public viewing.

8/13/2013

2012 Puget Sound Marine Waters Overview

The Puget Sound Marine Waters 2012 Overview from the Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program synthesizes conditions measured in 2012 and has been expanded to include observations on seabirds that rely on marine waters. Read an excerpt below, or download the full report.

Benthic invertebrates are indicators of sediment health. Photo by D. Hyrenbach, NOAA.
6/4/2013

Report: Sediment quality in Central Puget Sound

Sediment health in Central Puget Sound has shown a recent steep decline, according to a report by the Washington Department of Ecology. The report compares monitoring data over a ten-year period between 1998/1999 and 2008/2009.

5/15/2013

Photos: Swinomish shellfish harvesting and research

Browse a collection of shellfish photos provided by the Swinomish Tribe.

5/8/2013

Database: Transport and fate of nutrient and pathogen loadings into nearshore Puget Sound

With funding from the EPA (EPA Interagency Agreement DW-13-923276-01), scientists at the Northwest Fisheries Science Center and the University of Washington used a field and quantitative modeling ‘source-transport-fate’ assessment approach to classify the vulnerability of shellfish growing areas to closures caused by watershed and marine-derived pathogens. Based on the historical prevalence of nutrient pollution, shellfish closures, and phytoplankton blooms in commercial and recreational shellfish growing area, the project focused on three nearshore sites--the Hamma Hamma (WRIA 16), Dosewallips (WRIA 16) and Samish (WRIA 3).

Juvenile Manila clams. Photo: Julie Barber
5/2/2013

Extended abstract— Poisoning the body to nourish the soul: Prioritising health risks and impacts in a Native American community

This is an extended abstract of Poisoning the body to nourish the soul: Prioritising health risks and impacts in a Native American community by Jamie L. Donatuto, Terre A. Satterfield and Robin Gregory. The full article was published in Health, Risk & Society, Vol. 13, No. 2, April 2011, 103–127. The extended abstract was prepared for the Encyclopedia of Puget Sound by Jamie L. Donatuto.