What are the Names of Animal Groups? - Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Mark Boster
Dogs, fish, whales, spiders, and flies. What do they all have in common? They are animals. Sometimes when talking about animals we need to divide them into different groups. This lesson will tell you one way it is done.

Vertebrates Vs Invertebrates

Think of all the animals in the world! We need to split them into groups to understand them. Let's make the first division of animals:

  • The first group is those that have backbones (vertebrates).
  • The second group is those that don't have backbones (invertebrates).

Diagram 1

By looking at Diagram 1 you can see that vertebrates include animals such as (A): birds, like geese; (B): mammals, like dogs; (C): reptiles, like iguanas; (D): amphibians, like frogs; and (E): fish, like lionfish.

Now let's look at invertebrates. This list includes animals such as (F): sponges, like the dried sponge pictured; (G): cnidarians, like jellyfish; (H): echinoderms, like starfish; (I): mollusks, like octopuses; (J): annelids, like worms; and (K): arthropods, like crabs.


Some vertebrates are warm-blooded. This means their bodies stay a constant temperature. There are also cold-blooded vertebrates. Their body temperatures are close to the temperature around them.

Diagram 2

Warm-Blooded Vertebrates

Birds (A)

To be considered a bird, there are two traits they must have.

  1. Feathers.
  2. Female birds lay eggs.

If it doesn't have either of these traits, it is not a bird! You notice it doesn't have to fly to be a bird - think about penguins!

Mammals (B)

They must have these traits:

  1. Hair or fur.
  2. Females make milk for their babies.

Did you know whales are mammals?

Cold-Blooded Vertebrates

Reptiles (C)

They are cold-blooded vertebrates that:

  1. Have lungs
  2. Have scales

Amphibians (D)

What makes an animal an amphibian?

  1. As babies, they live in the water, but as adults, they live mainly on land.
  2. They have gills for part of their life (as babies) and lungs for part of their life (as adults).

Fish (E)

There are some types of fish that are warm-blooded, but most are cold-blooded. Also:

  1. They breathe using gills.
  2. They have fins.


There are many more invertebrate animals than vertebrate animals in the world.

Diagram 3

Sponges (F)

Here are some characteristics of sponges:

  1. They don't have mouths, muscles, hearts, or brains.
  2. They stay in one spot their whole lives. Just like plants don't move, neither do sponges.

Cnidarians (G)

Note, the 'C' in 'cnidarians' is silent. There are over 9,000 types of cnidarians. They include jellyfish, corals, and sea fans.

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