Vertebrate Animals: Characteristics and Classification

Classified in Biology

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Vertebrate animals belong to the Animal Kingdom and have the following characteristics:

  • They have an internal skeleton that allows movement, protects the organs, and gives support to their body.
  • They have blood to carry the nutrients and waste products throughout the body.
  • They have articulated limbs (fins, wings, or legs).

We are going to study the vertebrates' groups:

1. Fish

  • Aquatic (they have a fusiform body, thinner in the tips, and fins). They breathe through gills.
  • Poikilothermic (they cannot maintain constant body temperature).
  • They have a lateral line (a line that crosses their body that is able to detect vibrations in the water).
  • They have external fertilization: gametes join in the environment, outside of the female's body.
  • They can be oviparous (the embryo develops inside an egg outside the mother's body) or ovoviviparous (the embryo develops inside an egg inside the mother's body. Some sharks).
  • There are two groups:
  • Bony fish. Bony skeleton. Gills protected by an operculum. Examples: trout, salmon.
  • Cartilaginous fish. Cartilaginous skeleton. Visible gills. Examples: sharks, rays.

2. Birds

  • Terrestrial or aquatic, but all of them breathe through lungs.
  • Homeothermic (they can maintain constant body temperature).
  • Internal fertilization, oviparous.
  • Body covered with feathers. Upper limbs are wings. The beaks' shape depends on the type of feeding. The shape of their legs depends on their habitat.
  • Light body: they have air sacs between the organs and inside the bones.
  • Two types:
  • Flying birds. They can fly. Examples: eagles, parrots.
  • Flightless birds. They cannot fly. Examples: ostrich, kiwi, penguins.

3. Mammals

  • Terrestrial or aquatic, but all of them breathe through lungs.
  • Homeothermic.
  • Internal fertilization, oviparous or viviparous.
  • Body covered with fur or hair. They are the only group of vertebrates that have ears (except for whales, dolphins, manatees, and seals).
  • They have mammary glands that produce milk, from which the newborns feed.
  • There are three groups:
  • Monotremes. Oviparous. Examples: platypus, echidnas.
  • Marsupials. Viviparous, but their babies finish their development inside an external pouch (marsupium). Examples: koala, kangaroo.
  • Placentals. Viviparous with a placenta. Examples: tigers, elephants.

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