early Cambrian to Recent
A vertebrate is an animal with a spinal cord surrounded by cartilage or bone. The word comes from vertebrae, the bones that make up spines. 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.
Examples of vertebrates are mammals, birds, and fish. A few tens of thousands of species have been identified. Most are fish. Sharks, and related skates and rays, are vertebrates with cartilage instead of bones.
Taxonomy and classification
- Subphylum Vertebrata
- Agnatha (jawless vertebrates)
- Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates)
- Tetrapoda (four-limbed vertebrates)
Images for kids
Vertebrate Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.