Vertebrates Lesson for Kids: Characteristics & Facts

Vertebrates Lesson for Kids: Characteristics & Facts
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  • 0:00 Grouping by Similarities
  • 0:50 Characteristics of All…
  • 2:09 Five Kinds of Vertebrates
  • 3:54 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: April Gwen Ellsworth

April has a master's degree in psychology and has experience teaching special populations from preschoolers to adults.

All vertebrates have a backbone, but what else do they have in common? From the furry fox to the slippery salamander, animals in the five vertebrate groups are alike in certain ways. Find out how and more in this lesson on vertebrates.

Grouping by Similarities

On the first day of school, if all students went into just one classroom, things would get confusing very quickly! Instead, third graders go to one class, while fifth graders go to another, and so on. Scientists do the same with animals. Scientists divide, or classify, animals into groups to make them easier to study.

First, all animals in the world are classified as either vertebrates or invertebrates. Vertebrates have a backbone, but invertebrates do not. Scientists can't stop there, however, because in each group thousands of different animals exist! So scientists divide vertebrates and invertebrates into smaller and smaller groups. Let's talk about the vertebrates and some of their groups.

Characteristics of All Vertebrates

Think of five animals. . . I'll wait. . . What were they? Vertebrates or invertebrates? Chances are most of them are vertebrates because they are so familiar to us. Animals like dogs, bears, ducks, elephants, fish, and tigers are vertebrates. As humans, we are also considered animals and are classified as vertebrates. So, what makes an animal a vertebrate?

  1. A backbone: as we mentioned, all vertebrates have a backbone, or the spinal column that runs down the animal's back.
  2. An endoskeleton: all vertebrates also have an endoskeleton, which consists of the bones that are inside a body. Imagine you had no bones. You would be just a big lump of skin, muscles, and organs that could not stand up or move around! Bones give vertebrates their shape.
  3. Systems: all vertebrates have some or all of these systems: muscles; heart and blood; skin covered with scales, fur, hair, or feathers; a way to get waste out of the body; a way to keep from getting sick; and a system in which the brain tells the body what to do.

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