Have you ever discovered a bizarre looking creature at the beach you had no idea how to identify? Chances are it was an invertebrate. Most of the animal life in the ocean is made up of creatures without backbones, known as invertebrates. This does not always mean they are without skeletons. Some animals like crustaceans (crabs, barnacles and their relatives) have exoskeletons, those hard outer shells that protect their insides (instead of endoskeletons or inside skeletons, like we have).
But crustaceans represent only a portion of the incredible diversity of invertebrates found in British Columbia’s marine environments. The array and variety of invertebrate body types is astounding! Collecting, identifying and studying the rich diversity of British Columbia’s marine invertebrates is at the core of the work being done in the invertebrate zoology collection at the Royal BC Museum.
This work contributes to worldwide knowledge of marine invertebrates and to ocean conservation. In the past decade, new species like Doconesthes dustinchiversi, a glass sponge, have been added to our collection. This animal is not just new to us but is new to science. The health of the ocean is critical to life on earth, for all species including humans. Our food, water and oxygen supply is intimately connected to marine ecosystems.
Through research and the documenting of species in fragile ecosystems, museum invertebrate collections like the one at the Royal BC Museum help ocean conservation efforts around the world.
In this pathway:
Next time you see an invertebrate-looking animal you can’t identify, take a photo, then try the Royal BC Museum’s interactive taxonomic key. You might discover a whole new world.
What do you wonder about life in the ocean?