Macrofauna: Epifauna and Infauna

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Epifauna and Infauna  

The organisms that live at the bottom of a wetland 

are known as benthos. Clams, worms, oysters and 

mussels are examples of benthic organisms.  

There are two groups of benthic organisms, based 

on their habitat: epifauna and infauna.  

Epifauna live attached to a surface and infauna live 

and burrow in the sediments beneath the surface 

within a wetland.   

Benthos play several important roles in the food 

web. Benthic organisms are also an excellent 

indicator of environmental conditions in wetlands. 

Benthos link the primary producers 

(phytoplankton) with higher levels in the food 

web. Filter feeders such as clams and oysters 

consume plankton and organic particles.  Many 

benthic creatures, particularly clams and worms

serve as food for larger, economically important 

species such as crabs and fish. 

In the Huntington Beach wetlands, the epifauna 

sampled consist primarily of Melampus olivaceus

Salt Marsh Snail (Image A), and Cerithidea 

californica, CA Horn Snail (Image B). The Salt 

marsh snail grazes on microalgae and are great 

contributors to the decomposition and detrital 

cycling of the marsh system (Whitcraft, 2007). The 

CA Horn snail eats primarily diatoms. 

Infauna organisms (6 Images of C) consist 

primarily of worms, nematodes, clams, isopods, 

and larvae.  Insects, like those that are terrestrial, 

are herbivorous and crustaceans, like crabs, are 

predaceous; whereas worms are 

detritivores/decomposers that break down organic 

matter (from algae, plants, and animals) and waste 

over time.   

Within a stable and productive ecosystem, both 

epifauna and infauna benthic organism will be 

present allowing for the cycling of nutrients and 

contribution to a dynamic and intricate food web.   


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