Disney's Animal Kingdom Theme Park
Rafiki's Planet Watch
Get to know the largest group of species on our planet, invertebrates—animals without a backbone!
All over the planet, these spineless creatures are creeping, crawling, swimming and flying. They do it with no internal skeletal system and make up 95% of all animal species.
Invertebrates at Walt Disney World Resort
Come in contact with a wide variety of crawling “inverts”—a nickname for invertebrates, at Disney’s Animal Kingdom park while visiting Conservation Station at Rafiki’s Planet Watch. Encounter more walking the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail or while you’re earning badges with the Wilderness Explorers.
Inverts don't just dwell on land. They cruise along the currents and seabeds of marine ecosystems too. Shrimp, horseshoe crabs, sea stars, corals and clams are just a few sea creatures that lay claim to this animal classification. Discover marine invertebrates at The Seas with Nemo & Friends at Epcot.
Finally, if inverts are not on land or sea, they may be in flight. The butterfly is an example of this. You can see them fluttering about the Walt Disney World Resort.
Invertebrates in the Wild
From the freezing waters of Antarctica to the steamy jungles of South America, invertebrates are pollinating plants, controlling pest populations, keeping soil healthy and forming an integral link in food webs on both land and sea. While they lack a spine, it goes to show that invertebrates truly are the backbone of healthy ecosystems worldwide.
Disney Conservation Efforts
The Walt Disney Company is passionately committed to the protection of invertebrates and their natural habitats. Find out what Disney is doing to make a difference and how you can help!
“We like to use storytelling to show kids and families the magic of nature and inspire them to take care of it.” – Dr. Mark Penning, VP Disney’s Animals, Science and Environment
It’s tough to be a bug, oyster or scallop!
Exotic Plants Can Spell Trouble
A garden filled with exotic plants can be bad news for invertebrates. Many insects, such as butterflies, lay their eggs on just 1 or 2 types of plants (called “host plants”). Exotic plants can choke out native plants, including host plants. If a host plant disappears, so will the insect that relies on it.
Trouble at Sea
Marine invertebrates, including oysters and scallops, face threats as coral reefs are under attack by unsafe fishing practices, coral bleaching and ocean acidification. Oyster and scallop beds are also being destroyed by overharvesting.
Disney Is Helping Invertebrates
The Disney Conservation Fund (DCF) is working with Disney’s Animals, Science and Environment team to protect terrestrial and marine invertebrates! Support from the DCF is helping the University of Florida to protect at-risk butterflies in Florida and California through habitat restoration, breeding and reintroduction of butterflies into the wild. Disney’s animal care experts and conservationists are helping marine invertebrates by restoring damaged oyster beds. With assistance from volunteers in neighboring communities, this restoration is made possible through the laying of new, healthy reef foundations on the ocean floor in locations determined to be viable for oysters.
Discover why inverts enjoy being part of the Disney family.
Inverts in the Mist
They get the royal treatment at Disney parks. The research center located on the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail hosts African inverts of various shapes and sizes, including Madagascar hissing cockroaches and dung beetles. Inhabiting carefully controlled mini-environments, these inverts are provided with everything they need in a small-scaled ecosystem that is carefully monitored by Disney’s animal care experts.
Thanks to specialized, temperature-controlled aquariums and sand environments, invertebrates such as corals, clams, horseshoe crabs, shrimp and hermit crabs can thrive without having to worry about predators swimming nearby at The Seas with Nemo & Friends at Epcot. Marine invertebrates are located in Nemo and Friends and Bruce’s Shark World on Level One and Explorers’ Club on Level Two of The Seas with Nemo & Friends.
Find out incredible facts about some fascinating inverts.
Insect, Invert or Both
Any animal that lacks a backbone can be classified as an invertebrate. To be classified as both an insect and an invertebrate, the animal must have 6 legs, 3 body segments and 1 pair of antennae. An ant is example of both an insect and invertebrate. Is the spider one too? No, because spiders have 8 legs, 2 body segments and no antennae. A spider is not an insect but it is an invertebrate.
Your Pizza Depends on Them
Thanks to pollinator invertebrates, tomatoes—used to make pizza sauce—grow thanks to the hard work of pollinators. When pollinators, such as butterflies and bees, land on flowers to collect nectar, pollen sticks to their bodies. As they fly from plant to plant, they bring pollen with them that helps more plants to grow, including many fruits, vegetables and chocolate.
Crawlers Are Your Friend
Spiders are “bug zappers” that prey upon the pests that bother people the most—like biting flies and mosquitos. Spiders help prevent the spread of human diseases and keep populations of pest bugs under control. Without them, the world would be a much buggier place.
Nature’s Nightlight Invertebrates
Much like their spider relatives, scorpions like to eat bugs. Did you know they have another hidden talent? They glow in the dark under ultraviolet (UV) light!
Cockroaches Are Good
They eat rotting plant matter found on forest floors and return those trapped nutrients to the soil when they defecate. Nutrient-rich soil makes for an abundance of healthy plants.
Inverts of Epic Proportions
Colossal squids are the largest invertebrate on Earth. Growing between 39 and 46 feet (12-14 m) long and weighing up to 1,650 pounds (748 kg), these elusive animals are rarely spotted due to their deep water habitat— making them a sneaky species of massive proportions.
Super Star Inverts
Sea stars can lose limbs. However, they have the incredible ability to grow them back. Sometimes, their lost limbs can regenerate into a new sea star altogether!
Oysters keep marine habitats clean and growing! When oysters draw in microscopic plankton and algae to eat, they clean the surrounding water at the same time. As oysters grow and reproduce, they form reef-like structures that foster a variety of fish, crustaceans and other sea life.
A Long History
The horseshoe crab has ancestors that predate dinosaurs! A “crab” in name only, these invertebrates are more closely related to arachnids than crustaceans.
Grab a cup and your mobile phone—you’ll need these for your mission.
Don’t squash them! The next time you see a spider indoors, use a piece of paper and a cup to scoop it up and transport it outside. This way spiders can keep on doing what they do best—eating mosquitoes and other bugs.
Participate in a Citizen Science Project
Researchers often rely on citizens when it comes to gathering data about the range and population size of invertebrates. By sending photos of these creatures to scientists through a citizen science project, you can have an impact on groundbreaking research. Get your camera out and start taking pictures!
Choose Sustainable Seafood
Help protect the habits of marine invertebrates by purchasing sustainable seafood. To find options in your area and to learn about which items to avoid—download this free Seafood Watch app for your mobile device.
Hold on Tight to Your Balloons!
Balloons can travel thousands of miles before landing in a forest, field, lake or ocean. Wildlife often mistake burst balloons for food or become entwined in the string, which can be life threatening for them. Help protect animals by never releasing balloons. Looking for an alternative to releasing balloons to commemorate an event? Plant a tree, fly a kite or blow bubbles for a memorable and wildlife-friendly occasion.
Visit the Websites Below
The Walt Disney Company is committed to protecting the planet and using resources wisely. We conserve nature and inspire kids and families to join us in caring for the planet. Explore the websites listed below to see how Disney is helping to make the world a better place and learn how you can make a difference, too!
“I have learned from the animal world. What everyone will learn, who studies it, is a renewed sense of kinship with the Earth and all its inhabitants.” – Walt Disney