Shared Characteristics of Animals

Shared Characteristics of Animals
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  • 0:02 Animals
  • 0:38 Eating
  • 1:27 Cells
  • 2:25 How They Reproduce
  • 3:34 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Yuanxin (Amy) Yang Alcocer

Amy has a master's degree in secondary education and has taught math at a public charter high school.

Watch this video lesson to learn how very alike animals are. Learn how similar animals are in the way they eat, the way they grow, and the way they reproduce.


In this lesson, we'll talk about the animals that we see around us and how all of them share some characteristics. We can define an animal as a living organism with specialized sense organs and a nervous system that feeds on other organic matter. All the dogs and cats that you see walking around town are animals. So are all the animals you see at the zoo. Even fish are animals. Go to a pet store, and all the pets for sale there are animals. Let's compare two of these animals and see what characteristics they share. Let's look at a dog and a goldfish.


Here is Sam the dog and Joe the goldfish. Sam can run up and greet you and wag his tail. Joe can do something similar by swimming up to the front of his fish tank and wagging his whole body.

One very important shared characteristic that they have is that they both need to eat. If Sam didn't eat, he would starve and die. So would Joe. This is one shared characteristic that all animals have. They all need to eat to live. In science terminology, an organism that needs to eat to survive is called a heterotroph. So all animals are heterotrophs. Different animals will eat different things, but in the end, they still need to eat. Sam the dog, for example, can chow down on a big turkey leg, while Joe the goldfish chows down on some worms.


All animals are multicellular, meaning that their bodies are made up of multiple cells. An egg, for example, is a single cell, but all animals have many more cells that make up the whole organism. Each of these cells serves a purpose in the organism. Every single organ in an animal is made up of specialized cells. The nose and the sense of smell are made up of special cells, as are the eyes and the animal's ability to see.

Look at Sam the dog and you'll see that he has a nose, two eyes, two ears, and other body parts, such as his legs and tail. Each of these is made up of special cells. Look at Joe the goldfish, and you'll see that Joe has a mouth, two eyes, a tail, and a body. Joe doesn't have legs, but Joe still has various body parts that are made up of special cells. In addition to animals being multicellular, we can also say that animals have specialized cells.

How They Reproduce

The last shared characteristic that all animals share is that they all start life as an egg. This egg can start growing through either sexual reproduction, when sperm fertilizes the egg, or through asexual reproduction, when the egg is able to start growing on its own. In animals, this egg can start its life after being laid, or it can start its life inside the mom.

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