Animalia Classes-Subphylum Vertebrata

Subphylum Vertebrata

Description: Vertebrates are a diverse group of animals that share a common trait: a vertebral column, which runs from their head to their tail bone and is the basis for the rest of the body's skeletal structure. This skeletal structure, in turn, supports a number of other common features. For example, vertebrates possess multiple layers of skin or other external structures that cover their innards (such as scales) and a very advanced muscular structure. Almost all vertebrates reproduce sexually, like other animals, but their methods of sexual reproduction vary: some lay eggs, others give birth to offspring directly. Vertebrates are actually a very varied subphylum.

Example: A crocodile, a common reptilian vertebrate that populates many habitats

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Class Myxini

Description: Members of class Myxini possess a very interesting structure: they possess no spinal column or bone structure outside a skull and tailbone, which leads to some of the most bizarre looking creatures in existence. Many also have the capacity to produce slime as an escape mechanism, allowing them to slip away from the jaws or claws of predators. Little is known about their reproductive tendencies, as most members of class Myxini seem to be female, but researchers are beginning to find evidence that they may be hermaphroditic. 


Pacific hagfish, a common member of class Myxini that is consumed by many people in Korea as a delicacy.

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Class Cephalospidomorphi

Description: The class cephalospidomorphi is commonly distinguished by jawlessness, coupled with an incredibly large "nasal cavity" that runs throughout their body. This body structure lends itself to a funnel structure, which aids members of cephalospidomorphi in sucking parasitically off of larger host organisms. There is only one member of class cephalospidomorphi: the lamprey. Its reproduction methods, like those of members of class Myxini, are still unknown to researchers.


Example: A lamprey, the only member of class cephalospidomorphi. Note the rows of teeth and lack of a jaw structure.

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Class Chondricthyes

Description: Members of class Chondrichthyes are cartilaginous organisms. They are jawed, and possess fins and tails for rapid acceleration through water. Most members of the class are aquatic hunters, who hunt fish and other members of their class. Another unique trait to Chondricthytes is a very powerful sense of smell, which aids them in the capture of their prey, as well as sensory organs that allow them notice changes in water pressure.


The Great White Shark, a well known chondrichthyte that is an impressive underwater predator

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Class Osteichthyes

Description: Osteichthytes are a group of organisms termed "bony fish" that are separated into two classes: ray finned fish and lobe finned fish. Most fish are osteichthytes, and since there are many species of fish, they make up the largest class of vertebrates. They are aquatic organisms that focus on efficient swimming and catching prey and other food sources that are located in their watery habitats, and osteichthytes have developed many unique adaptations for swimming, such as mechanisms to control their temperature. Some are cold-blooded and adjust to the temperature of the water, while others can keep their bodies temperature in homeostasis.


Xiphias gladius, or the swordfish, is a bony fish renowned for its high speed and distinctive sword-like beak

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Class Amphibia

Description: Amphibians are a diverse group of vertebrates that contain several groups of organisms that appear dissimilar: frogs, salamanders, and caecilians. The main unique feature of this class is that they metamorphose from a juvenile, water dwelling form as they mature, eventually becoming an organism that lives on land and in the water. This change from water-breathing to air-breathing as life progresses marks amphibians as unique.


 The strawberry poison dart frog, Oophaga pumilio. Many amphibians utilize poison as a natural defense mechanism against predators.

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Class Reptilia

Description: Class Reptilia is a division of vertebrates that consists scaly, cold-blooded predatory animals. In the past, they dominated the world as its most prominent organism in the time of the dinosaurs, but many of them were driven to extinction 65 million years ago, and they have since entered a steady decline. Reptiles reproduce by laying eggs, and there are species that are entirely aquatic as well as species that live on land.


 An African egg-eating snake, a type of reptile that preys on the offspring of other animals

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Class Aves

 Description: Class Aves denotes a well known type of vertebrate, which humans refer to as birds. These vertebrates are distinguished by their hollow bones and wings which typically allow flight. Birds also typically have a very high metabolic rate, and need to constantly eat to fuel their high energy requirements. Members of Class Aves also demonstrate a high amount of intelligence, using simple tools and communicating with each other in a cultural context.


A Red Lory, a playful bird commonly kept in captivity.

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Class Mammalia

 Description: Mammals are air-breathing vertebrates that are unique in that they possess hair, mammary glands, and a neocortex, which is a special part of the brain that can, in the case of humans, grant higher thought and language skills. Mammals also have sweat glands, as well as specialized teeth not exhibited in other classes of vertebrates. Mammals have a large degree of variation of size and ecological niche, and the class contains everything from small bats to huge blue whales.


A family of goats, quadrupeds raised by humans for agricultural purposes

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Animalia Phyla

Phylum Echinodermata

Description: Organisms within the phylum Echinodermata are animals found deep within the ocean, from the intertidal to abyssal zone. Echinoderms are remarkable because of two notable factors: their relative abundance despite hostile conditions deep within the ocean, and their hardened exterior skeletons which offer them protection and allow them to cling to hard, rocky surfaces. These spines and skeletons sometimes pose a health risk to humans and other predators, who can be harmed by the rigidity of the echinoderm’s body.

An example of an echinoderm is a Red-knobbed starfish. A starfish is a common echinoderm that is considered very aesthetically pleasing, and is even occasionally used for decoration by humans. The Red-knobbed variety is found within the Indian Ocean.

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Phylum Mollusca

Description: Molluscs, or organisms belonging to the phylum Mollusca, are the largest group of marine organisms in existence, consisting of 23% of all marine organisms currently known. They are highly diverse in structure, environment, behavior, and habit. The phylum’s sheer size creates a large variation between organisms. One trait common to most molluscs is the presence of a body cavity, used for breathing and exretion.

An example of a mollusc would be a blue ringed octopus, a small mollusc known for its potent venom, which is strong enough to kill a human. The large cavity inside the head of the octopus functions as its mantle.

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Phylum Arthropoda

Description: Arthropods are a phylum that contains more than 80% of all living animal species. They are invertebrates that possess segmented bodies, characterized by appendages which are paired with each segment. Arthropods possess amazing versatility, and scientists attribute their success as a phylum largely to their unique body plan.

Example: The Asian Forest Scorpion, an arachnid, is a member of phylum Arthropoda. The arachnid possesses weak venom that is not capable of killing humans, though other members of its species possess that capability. Scorpions exemplify the diversity found in arthropods: they are found over all continents except in Antarctica, and enjoy great success as predators of insects and small mammals.

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Kingdom Animalia

Description: Animals are a group of complex, motile eukaryotic organisms that populate many areas of the earth. They are very diverse in form and ecological niche. As animals grow, their body plans become fixed until they no longer mature physically, unlike many other kingdoms of organisms.

Body Plan: All animals are multicellular organisms, with highly differentiated tissues that become more complex as the animal matures from the embryonic stage to maturity.

Divergent Event: Animals most likely evolved from a flagellated eukaryotic organism, which became differentiated from organisms similar to it due to the position of its flagellum, and became more complex over millions of years, eventually forming the first sponges, which are a primitive type of animal organism.

Metabolism: All animals are heterotrophs, and ingest other organisms to gain sustenance. Specifically, carbon compounds are digested through cellular respiration, which takes in oxygen and releases carbon dioxide.

Digestion: Some animals possess intracellular digestion, such as jellyfish, hydra and corals. Extracellular digestion takes place in animals such as humans, who use enzymes to digest materials and then absorb them directly into the body's cells.

Circulation: Animals that are vertebrates possess a closed circulatory system, in which blood circulates throughout the body. An animal’s heart is a chunk of muscular tissue that expands and contracts to pump blood through its veins.

Respiration: Different types of animals possess different types of respiratory systems. Aquatic animals possess gills, while land animals possess lungs, and still others possess both. Furthermore, all animals undergo cellular respiration to release carbon dioxide and produce ATP.

Nervous: Animals possess both a brain and ganglia that accompany it, which make up their nervous systems. Common parts of animal brains include the cerebellum, prefrontal cortex, and the hippocampus.

Reproduction: Animals engage in both sexual and asexual reproduction. Dogs, for example, are bred through sexual reproduction, but there are also some species that undergo parthogenesis (self-fertilization of egg cells by a female), such as the whiptail lizard, a species entirely composes of females.

Examples: Humans, or Homo sapiens, are a prime example of animals. We are complex, two legged vertebrates that consume other organisms to gain energy, like other animals.

A green sea turtle, or Chelonia mydas, is also an example of an animal, albeit one that swims underwater. As reptiles, turtles are cold blooded and lay eggs to reproduce. Despite their relative dissimilarity from humans, however, both are certainly animals

Phylum Anthophyta Classes


Description: Monocots are unique in that they possess only one nutrient storage location within their bodies, known as the cotyledon, which is located at the plant's base. This is incorporated with a taproot, which branches off into hundreds of smaller roots for easy mineral extraction, and then stored in the cotyledon, which in turn transports it up the plants stems through numerous vascular tissues.


A lily, or Lilium bulbiferum, is a monocot, as evidenced by its long stem and taproot


Description: Dicots are, as the name suggests, quite similar to monocots in structure. They possess two cotyledons rather than one, however, which gives them a few differences: they have branching veins rather than straight ones, because there is no need for their veins to run in parallel. In addition, the vascular tissues of Dicots are arranged in a circular pattern. Typically, their flowers possess petals or sepals that grow in fives.


Ruellia caroliniensis, a flower in the bean family. Note the 5 petals and 4 anthers.

Plantae Phyla

Phylum Bryophyta:

Description: Bryophytes are non-vascular land plants, unique in that they possess tissues and enclosed reproductive systems, but they have no vascular tissue to circulate liquids, and are therefore limited in size. They do not reproduce by creating flowers or seeds, like many plants, but instead spread spores in a manner similar to fungi. The spores are generated through sexual reproduction: gametes fuse to form a zygote, which forms an embryo that is then launched from the plant.

Environment: Bryophytes are usually found in aquatic environments attached to the sea floor, or on the forest floor or ground.


Marchantia polymorpha is a type of liver wort, a common group of bryophytes similar to moss. Note its small size and tiny height.

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Phylum Coniferophyta

Description: Conifers are cone-bearing plants with vascular tissues that form large, hardy trees. They are an incredibly successful phylum, with conifers being the dominant plant type in the world's entire northern hemisphere, and are very resistant to cold climates. Conifers reproduce sexually, with fertilized seeds falling to the ground until they meet conditions suitable to sprout and grow. All conifers are woody, and many are used for construction materials by humans or homes for animals.

Environment: Conifers are typically found in boreal forests, where they make up most of the biomass.


The redwood, or Sequioandrenon giganteum, is the largest tree in the world in cubic feet. Its sheer size has staggered humans for millennia.

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Kingdom Plantae

Description- Plants are a kingdom of organisms that includes trees, herbs, bushes, mosses, ferns, and more. They are generally stationary, and many plants get their energy from the light of the sun. Land plants also receive a large percentage of their nutrients from the soil, and reproduce through flowering, or spreading their pollen to other members of the species. Plants are a very common organism on the earth’s surface, and make up a significant percentage of the biomass.

Body Plan- Plants are multicellular, being complex eukaryotes that have many intracellular organelles and specialized tissues.

Divergent Event- Plants are descendants of the first eukaryotes, which evolved from prokaryotes about 1-2.5 billion years ago. The photosynthetic properties of plants result from traits that were originally acquired through endosymbiosis, with eukaryotes engulfing simpler photosynthetic organisms which eventually became the organelles that plants possess today

Metabolism-Plants are autotrophic in general, but there exist a few exceptions to this rule: Venus flytraps, for example, supplement their photosynthetic nutrition by consuming other organisms. An example of an autotrophic plant would be grass.

Digestion-Digestion in plants is extracellular.

Circulation- Vascular plants possess structures called the xylem and phloem, which transport water and nutrients from the plant’s leaves to its roots. Together, these structures make up the plant’s vein, which acts as its circulatory system.

Respiration- Plants perform cell respiration, which releases oxygen, but possess no respiratory organs.

Nervous system-Plant possess no nervous system

Reproduction-Plant can reproduce asexually and sexually. An example of sexual reproduction would be pollination, while an example of asexual reproduction is the binary fission that algae perform when reproducing.

Examples- Microsorum pteropus is a common fern used in many aquariums due to its small size and pleasing appearance.

A dandelion, or Taraxacum officinale, is a very common weed worldwide despite its beneficial properties to soil and natural health benefits.