|Examples from each major vertebrate group: clockwise, starting from top left:|
J-B. Lamarck, 1801
A vertebrate is an animal with a spinal cord surrounded by cartilage or bone. The word comes from vertebrae, the bones that make up the spine. Animals that are not vertebrates are called invertebrates. Vertebrates include birds, fish, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals. The parts of the vertebrate skeleton are:
- Braincase: A braincase or cranium protects the brain.
- Vertebrae: A series of short, stiff vertebrae are separated by joints. This internal backbone protects the spinal cord. The joints between the vertebrae let the backbone bend.
- Bones: support and protect the body's soft tissues and provides points for muscle attachment.
- Gill arches: Gill arches in the pharynx of fish and some amphibians support the gills. In the majority of vertebrates some of the arches have evolved into other organs, such as jaws.
Vertebrates dominate amongst the animals in virtually all environments. They include the largest animals in each main ecosystem, though not the largest living things (because that would include trees). They are the only animals which have an adaptive immune system. These two facts may be connected.
Taxonomy and classification
- Subphylum Vertebrata
- Agnatha (jawless vertebrates)
- Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates)
- Tetrapoda (four-limbed vertebrates)
|Amphibian • Bird • Fish • Mammal • Reptile|
Images for kids
Vertebrate Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.