Insects and Invertebrates
It requires a trained eye to spot some residents of springs. By far the most secretive of them are invertebrates like the Freshwater Shrimp and the albino Cave Crayfish. Often no more than a couple inches in size, these tiny animals comprise some of the rarest species in Florida. Pull back the curtain and meet the insects and invertebrates of the springs.
Albino Cave Crayfish
Due to the isolation of many of Florida's underwater cave systems, Cave Crayfish are the rarest of all springs' residents. Many species, like the Putnam County Cave Crayfish are endemic to only a single cave and have a range of only a few miles. All of these species of cave crayfish are particularly vulnerable to abrupt changes in water quality.
Found only in the springs and spring runs of north Florida and armored with bright red and black stripes, the Spring Crayfish is the most abundant crustacean in springs and one of the most colorful crayfish in North America. They are most often encountered at night when they emerge from their crevices in the limestone walls of the springs to scavenge on decaying organic material.
One inch in size and easily camouflaged in mats of vegetation and algae near the surface, the Freshwater Shrimp is one of the most secretive of all the spring inhabitants. Like other shrimp around the world, it feeds primarily on microscopic plankton.
Golden Orb Weaver
The Golden Orb Weaver is among the largest spiders in North America. It is very common in Florida, but occurs throughout the southeastern United States and is found all the way throughout the tropics to Brazil. Its web is particularly strong, and was harvested by Native Americans for use as fishing line. Although this large spider looks intimidating, it actually scuttles away from humans when disturbed. Like most spiders, it is a beneficial predator, helping keep nuisance bugs in check.
Damselflies are delicate cousins of dragonflies, both of which belong to the order Odonata, which first appeared on Earth more than 250 million years ago. Damselflies spend the majority of their lives underwater in spring runs and creeks, before emerging from the water and transforming into their adult form. Damselflies are often seen flying together in tandem, which is part of their mating process. They are very sensitive to pollution, so their presence in a water body generally indicates that it is healthy.
Swallowtail Butterflies, striking and beautiful, are named for the long tails that project from their hind wings. Eight species are found in Florida. The larvae are large caterpillars that feed from a variety of host plants, including aquatic species such as water dropwort and sweetbay.
Capable of reaching three inches in diameter and found only in southern Georgia and Florida, the Apple Snail is the largest snail inhabiting the freshwaters of North America. Apple snails are also the principal prey of the Limpkin and are critical to its survival.