Bitesize has changed! We're updating subjects as fast as we can. Visit our new site to find Bitesize guides and clips - and tell us what you think!
Print

Science

Ecology and grouping organisms

Vertebrates

The animal kingdom can be divided into two major phyla. Animals without backbones are invertebrates, such as spiders and insects. Animals with backbones are vertebrates. The vertebrates can be further divided into classes, such as mammals and birds.

Vertebrate classes

Vertebrate classes and some of their key features

classfeaturesexamples
amphibiansmoist permeable skinfrog, newt, salamander
fishgills, wet scalesgoldfish, shark, cod
reptilesdry scalescrocodile, lizard, snake
birdsfeathers,beaksbudgerigar, sparrow, ostrich
mammalsfur, produce, milkrabbit, kangaroo, human, dolphin

Higher only

Some fossil vertebrates and newly discovered species can be difficult to classify. For example, Archaeopteryx is an extinct vertebrate known only by its fossil remains. It has characteristics of birds and reptiles.

Back to Understanding our environment index

BBC navigation

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.