Stay connected with us
around the nation »

Invertebrates and Plants

White Abalone
White Abalone
(Haliotis sorenseni)
Photo: John Butler, NOAA

Queen Conch
Queen Conch
(Strombus gigas)
Photo: NOAA

underwater close up of Johnson's seagrass in the vicinity of Sebastian Inlet, FL
Johnson's seagrass
(Halophila johnsonii)
Photo: Lori Morris, St. Johns River Water Management District

elkhorn coral, underwater photo
Elkhorn Coral
(Acropora palmata)
Photo: NOAA's Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary

Mollusks, corals, and brachiopods are three groups of marine invertebrates.

To view ESA-listed marine invertebrates under NMFS' jurisdiction, click here:

» Marine Invertebrates

For more information about mollusks, marine plants, corals, or brachiopods, please see below.



Mollusks (from the Latin word molluscus, meaning "soft") are a phylum of invertebrates with over 50,000 known species.

There are seven classes of mollusks:

The majority of mollusks (including abalone) are of the Class Gastropoda, whose name translates from Latin as "stomach foot." Mollusks are soft-bodied animals that may have a hard external shell (composed by secreting calcium carbonate), a hard internal shell, or no shell at all. Mollusks are taxonomically related to annelids (segmented worms) and pogonophora (deep-sea tube worms).

Marine Plants

There are several categories of marine plants, including seagrasses, mangroves, and algae. Seagrasses, such as Johnson's seagrass, are true flowering plants that have adapted to life in the marine environment. Most seagrasses reproduce via pollination (similar to many terrestrial plants) and are found in coastal marine areas. Mangroves are also true flowering plants and are found in coastal waters of varying salinities. Algae are not true flowering plants and range in size from microscopic phytoplankton to large seaweed species.


Brachiopods are bottom-dwelling, filter-feeding invertebrates whose name translates from Latin as "arm feet." Brachiopods are sessile (stationary, attached), and were the first sessile animals to surround their bodies with a solid external shell. They appear similar to clams on the outside, but have a unique anatomy. Most brachiopods attach to substrate using a muscular stalk (or pedicle) and feed using an appendage called a lophophore. The brachiopoda phylum is common in the fossil record, and brachiopods were extremely abundant in the Paleozoic era. Their numbers were greatly reduced during the Permo-Triassic mass extinction approximately 250 million years ago, and today there are approximately 300 living species of brachiopods. Brachiopods are taxonomically related to bryozoans, or lace corals.

There are two main classes of brachiopod: Inarticulata (e.g., inarticulated brachiopod) and Articulata.

Main Factors for Decline

More Information

Updated: June 29, 2017