• Audience
    Primary school, Secondary school
  • Learning stage
    Stage 3, Stage 4, Stage 5, Stage 6
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    Teaching resources

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Invertebrates are animals without a backbone. Of the planet's estimated 15-30 million animal species, 90% or more are invertebrates. Invertebrates live just about anywhere. They come in many shapes and sizes, live practically anywhere and provide many services that are vital for our survival.

  • The Colossal Squid is the largest invertebrate. It can grow to up to 14 metres long!
  • Moths smell with their antennae.
  • Butterflies taste with their feet.
  • Ants can lift up to 5,000 times their own body weight.
  • Insects breathe through small holes, called spiracles, in their abdomens.

  1. What is an invertebrate?
  2. How many groups of invertebrates can you think of?
  3. Why is it important for everyone to collect from the same sized sample area or for the same length of time?
  4. What important services do invertebrates provide that are vital for our survival?

There are so many invertebrates on this planet that it is impossible to count them all. But there are ways to measure their diversity. There are many techniques to survey the invertebrates in your backyard. Use a combination to collect invertebrates in your school playground or backyard and then use the dichotomous key to identify and count the number of each type of invertebrate.

  1. Pitfall traps sampling involves placing a small container buried to ground level so that it can collect anything that falls into it. This is a commonly used technique that catches large amount of material for very little effort. Common species found with this method include ants, spiders and beetles. This test is also very easy to standardise.
  2. Leaf litter sorting involves collecting leaf litter then sifting through the material to find the invertebrates. Protective clothing should be worn, sample sizes should be the same and equal lengths of time should be spent sifting the leaf litter samples.
  3. Beat sampling is probably the most widely used technique for collecting invertebrates from vegetation. This is a good technique for collecting beetles, ants, bugs and spiders. Use a sturdy stick is used to beat the vegetation, stunning the invertebrates. They can be collected in a light colour shallow bag or off a drop sheet.

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