Invertebrates

From crabs to octopuses, clams to marine worms, invertebrates play a significant role in ocean ecosystems. Many are important prey for fish, marine mammals, and humans. Others, such as corals and oysters, create essential habitat for marine species.

NOAA Fisheries is responsible for the sustainable management of many species of invertebrates—including white shrimp, Alaska snow crab, and Quahog clam—commonly harvested for human consumption. We are also responsible for protecting invertebrate species listed under the Endangered Species Act such as white abalone and elkhorn coral

Invertebrates are the most diverse group of animals in the ocean. Some common marine invertebrates include mollusks, crustaceans, and corals. 

Mollusks are a category of invertebrates with over 50,000 known species. They are soft-bodied animals that may have a hard external shell (formed by secreting calcium carbonate), a hard internal shell, or no shell at all. Mollusks include abalone, conch, oysters, and clams, as well as octopus and squid.

Crustaceans are a subcategory of invertebrates closely related to insects and spiders. They typically have a body covered with a hard shell or crust. Crustaceans include shrimp, krill, lobsters, and crabs.

Corals are known as colonial organisms because many individual creatures live and grow while connected to each other. The tiny, individual organisms that make up large coral colonies are called coral polyps. Stony, shallow-water corals—the kind that build reef habitat—are one type of coral. There are also soft corals and deep sea corals that live in dark, cold waters.

Learn more about corals


Species News

Harvesting Kelp in Alaska. Credit: Seagrove Kelp Co. Harvesting Kelp in Alaska. Credit: Seagrove Kelp Co.
Underwater photo of a pink fish hiding inside a conical yellow sponge. A pregnant sharpchin rockfish shelters within a sponge on the seafloor off Alaska. Credit: NOAA Fisheries.
Underwater photo of orange and white striped rockfish and sea urchins congregating around a large red tree coral on the seafloor. Rockfish and sea urchins congregate around a large red tree coral (Primnoa pacifica) in the Gulf of Alaska. Photo credit: NOAA Fisheries.

Research

Look Out for Invasive Crab!

The green crab is invading from the west coast and making its way to Alaska.

Research Surveys in the Pacific Northwest

Our scientists conduct various field studies and surveys to estimate fishery populations, better understand marine life, and track ecosystem conditions off California, Oregon, and Washington.

Local Biological Indicators

Biological conditions experienced by juvenile salmon entering the northern California Current.

Watershed Program Publications

Publications of the Northwest Fisheries Science Center's Watershed Program from 2010-present.

Insight

Understanding Sustainable Seafood

Well-managed wild-capture fisheries and environmentally responsible marine aquaculture play an increasingly important role in our food supply, our health, and the environment.

750x500-seafood-on-ice-shutterstock.jpg

Species

60 species match your filter criteria.