Characteristics of Arthropods Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Heather Pier

Heather has taught high school and college science courses, and has a master's degree in geography-climatology.

You may have never heard of arthropods, but don't worry, you're about to learn about them. We will explore the different body features and characteristics that make arthropods different from other animals.

What is an Arthropod?

What makes you who you are? You might say you could be identified based on your hair color, how tall you are, or that you like to eat pizza.

All of these identifying features you thought of are what we call 'characteristics'. A characteristic is a feature of a person or thing that helps us to identify them from other people or things. Arthropods are a group of animals that share a common set of characteristics.

Crabs are one of the more well known arthropods.

Characteristics of Arthropods

There are many different types of animals that are grouped together as arthropods. Each animal that is classified as an arthropod has a specific set of characteristics. The most important of those characteristics are:

  • Having jointed limbs. All arthropods have jointed limbs. This means their arms or legs can flex and bend at joints. If you imagine human limbs (our arms and legs), we have joints at our elbows, wrists, ankles, and knees. These joints can bend to help us move more easily, and they do the same job in arthropods.
  • Being an invertebrate. All arthropods are invertebrates. This means they don't have a backbone. Humans have backbones that help keep us upright. Arthropods don't need to be upright like we do, so they don't need a backbone to survive.
  • Having an exoskeleton. Instead of having a backbone, arthropods have an exoskeleton to help give their body a more solid shape and protect their insides. An exoskeleton is a hard shell-like cover for the inside parts of the animal's body. It is also what causes arthropods to make a crunching sound when you step on them.
  • Having good senses. All arthropods have very good senses. They have better eyesight than humans because they have more sophisticated eyes. They use their antenna to help them sense motion in the area around them. They have excellent ear-like parts called tympanic membranes that allow them to hear. And they even have a pretty good sense of taste, thanks to the taste sensors in their feet. That's right - instead of tasting food with a tongue like we do, they taste it with their feet!
  • Bilateral body symmetry. All arthropods have what is called bilateral body symmetry. This just means they're the same on both sides, like you and I are. 'Bi' is another word for two, and that means their body can be divided into two equal parts. 'Lateral' means 'side'. Humans have bilateral body symmetry - if you drew a line from your head to right between your feet, it would be the same on each side. The photo below will help you to see what bilateral symmetry looks like.

The yellow line shows how a butterfly would be divided using its bilateral symmetry. See how the butterfly is the same on both sides?

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