Invertebrates: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:03 What Is an Invertebrate?
  • 0:55 Types of Invertebrates
  • 2:24 Invertebrates in Your Life
  • 3:49 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

From bees to lobsters and octopi to cockroaches, invertebrates are everywhere. This lesson introduces them as a major group within biology and discusses their relationship with the human race.

What Is an Invertebrate?

It's probably for the best that certain phrases don't translate well to different species. That's because a common insult in English, that someone 'lacks a backbone,' would offend an overwhelmingly large chunk of the animal kingdom!

You see, 98% of the world's animal life does not have a backbone. We call these creatures invertebrates, which are animals without a backbone. But just because they don't have backbones doesn't mean they're weak or fragile. Some invertebrates may be very tiny, like super small snails, but others are massive and powerful, like the colossal squid.

In this lesson, we're going to scratch the surface of invertebrate life on Earth. We'll look at a number of the different types of invertebrates and learn how we humans interact with a variety of invertebrates every day. 

Types of Invertebrates

It's very difficult to overstate the importance of invertebrates. So, let's look at a few common groups of invertebrates and some of the roles they play:

  • Mollusks make up a class of 85,000 invertebrates, and this group has some of the largest types of invertebrates, including the colossal squid and the great squid as well as octopi. On the smaller side of the spectrum of mollusks you'll find snails and squids.

  • By far, the largest classification of invertebrates are insects. There are nearly a million species of insects, from those too small to see with the naked eye to insects that are the size of a fist!

  • Worms are also invertebrates. They take on a variety of jobs in their habitats, from decomposing organic matter into soil to acting as parasites for larger animals.

  • Crustaceans are a favorite type of invertebrate for many people from a culinary perspective. Shrimp, lobster, and crabs are examples of crustaceans, and people often eat these delicacies.

  • Marine invertebrates, outside of the aforementioned categories, are among the least-complex types of invertebrates, and they include sponges and jellyfish.

  • Last but not least, arachnids, the group that all spiders belong to, are invertebrates.

Of course, there are several other general types of invertebrates. However, they are all united by the fact that they are animals without a spinal column protected by a backbone.

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