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Salton Sea Symposium 2000

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Invertebrates of the Salton Sea Poster

Benthic Organisms

[Click on genus and species name to reach larger images] 


Neanthes succinea

(Nereidae, Polychaeta)

Adults of this worm dominate oxygenated offshore sediments and are abundant along the shoreline in a variety of substrates. It is a cosmopolitan benthic species being able to survive in a wide range of salinity: from fresh water estuaries to sea waters (Wu et al., 1985). N. succinea was first recorded in the Salton Sea in 1935 (Hartman, 1936).

It is the most important link between the detritus in the sediments and higher trophic levels (fish and birds). Due to its abundance and high caloric value, this polychaete is a major food item for fish at the Salton Sea.

 Scanning electron microscopy: dorsal view ventral view

Fig. 5. Adult pile worm. Major item in diet of several fish and eared grebes. Most abundant in winter on mud at a depth of 5-8 m. Estimated biomass is 13.2 million kg for the entire sea in late fall.


 Streblospio benedicti

(Spionidae, Polychaeta)

The presence of the polychaete family Spionidae was first found in the Salton Sea in January 1999 by D.Dexter. This tiny worm (4 mm as adult) inhabits the upper layer of muddy substrates throughout the world. It is found occupying dead barnacle shell along the rocky shoreline, among algae, and in muddy substrates of both shoreline and deeper Salton Sea sediments. 

General view

Ventrolateral view of anterior end with branchia (B), palp(P), and notopodium (N) with setae (S).

Fig. 6 Polychaete worm, Streblospio benedicti. First found in the Salton Sea in January 1999.


 Gammarus mucronatus

(Gammaridae, Amphipoda)

This amphipod was probably introduced into the Salton Sea in 1957. Gammarus is most abundant in algae-covered rock, common in barnacle-covered rock, and rare in soft sediments. Several generations are produced yearly.
 Fig. 7. Amphipod, Gammarus mucronatus. Lives in algal mats, among living barnacles, in the barnacle sand along the shoreline and within soft sediments. Food item of eared grebes and other bird species that feed in shallow water.


Corophium louisianum

(Corophiidae, Amphipoda)

This amphipod is a tube-dwelling species. It lives in u-shaped silky tubes which it secretes from glands in its legs and attaches to sediments, rocks and dead barnicle shells. Most species of Corophium are deposit feeders. It uses the long hairs on its anterior legs to filter food from the water. It was first collected in the Salton Sea by SDSU scientists in 1991 (Simpson et al., 1998).  
Fig. 8. Amphipod, Corophium sp. Lives in small tubes on submerged rocks.


 Harpacticoid copepod, Cletocampus deitersi.

It is a harpacticoid copepod which is reported from 5 continents (North and South America, Asia, Australia, Africa) in waters of varying salinity. It was first discovered at the Salton Sea in 1990 by an SDSU scientist (Dexter, 1995). Very abundant among algae, detrital debris on rocks and in muddy sediments. It is also occurs in low numbers in the plankton. Harpacticoid copepods are an important food source for fish larvae and juveniles. 


Fig. 9. Harpacticoid copepod, Cletocampus deitersi. Abundant among algae and detritis debris on rocks and also present in the mud.


Cyprideis beaconensis


At the Salton Sea these small crustaceans live in algal mats and in the sediments. They are found associated with macroalgae growing on rocks near the shore. The most distinctive feature of the Ostracoda is the calcareous bivalved carapace which totally envelops the body and limbs. Various appendages protrude from the carapace and are used for locomotion, feeding and reproduction.    
Fig. 10. Ostracod, Cyprideis beaconensis. Lives in algal mats and in the sediments. Swim up into the water column between aquatic plants.



An unidentified species of turbellarian flatworm was found in benthic samples by M.A. Tiffany in 1997. In early December, 1999, a high abundance of this turbellarian was found in the sediments along southeastern shoreline. 
Fig. 11. Flatworm (Turbellaria), an unidentified species lives in the sediments.



Several species of roundworms have been found in algal mats, barnacle communities and sediments. They are important in the recycling of organic matter and bacteria. a - general view, b - cephalic part, c - caudal part, male, d - buccal area, d - caudal part 

a - general view

 b - cephalic part

  c - caudal part, male 

d - anterior end


 e - posterior end

Fig. 12. Round worms (Nematoda). Several species have been found in sediments.  

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