Mangroves offer both hard and soft bottom habitats for a diversity of invertebrate life. The extensive root systems, muddy bottoms, and open waters are all home to invertebrates that are well adapted to the temperature and salinity variations as well as tidal influences common to mangroves. These invertebrates feed on leaf litter, detritus, plankton, and other small animals. Snails, barnacles, bryozoans, tunicates, mollusks, sponges, polychaete worms, isopods, amphipods, shrimps, crabs, and jellyfish all live either on or in close proximity to mangrove root systems.
Mangrove Tree Crab
courtesy South Florida Water Management District
Some invertebrates thrive in the mangrove canopy, of which the most abundant are the crabs. The mangrove tree crab, Aratus pisoni, resides in the canopy, feeding primarily on red mangrove leaves. Other crabs live in the intertidal mud flats, utilizing leaf litter and detritus as a food source.
© Cathleen Bester/FLMNH
Horseshoe crabs are scavengers and may be found among mangroves feeding on algae, invertebrates, and dead organisms.
They are especially adapted to low oxygen waters, possessing up to 200 book gills used for respiration.