The word "animal" comes from the Latin animalis, meaning having breath, having soul or living being. The biological definition includes all members of the kingdom Animalia. In colloquial usage, as a consequence of anthropocentrism, the term animal is sometimes used nonscientifically to refer only to non-human animals.
All animals are composed of cells, surrounded by a characteristic extracellular matrix composed of collagen and elastic glycoproteins. During development, the animal extracellular matrix forms a relatively flexible framework upon which cells can move about and be reorganised, making the formation of complex structures possible. This may be calcified, forming structures such as shells, bones, and spicules. In contrast, the cells of other multicellular organisms (primarily algae, plants, and fungi) are held in place by cell walls, and so develop by progressive growth. Animal cells uniquely possess the cell junctions called tight junctions, gap junctions, and desmosomes.
With few exceptions—in particular, the sponges and placozoans—animal bodies are differentiated into tissues. These include muscles, which enable locomotion, and nerve tissues, which transmit signals and coordinate the body. Typically, there is also an internal digestive chamber with either one opening (in Ctenophora, Cnidaria, and flatworms) or two openings (in most bilaterians).
Nearly all animals make use of some form of sexual reproduction. They produce haploidgametes by meiosis; the smaller, motile gametes are spermatozoa and the larger, non-motile gametes are ova. These fuse to form zygotes, which develop via mitosis into a hollow sphere, called a blastula. In sponges, blastula larvae swim to a new location, attach to the seabed, and develop into a new sponge. In most other groups, the blastula undergoes more complicated rearrangement. It first invaginates to form a gastrula with a digestive chamber and two separate germ layers, an external ectoderm and an internal endoderm. In most cases, a third germ layer, the mesoderm, also develops between them. These germ layers then differentiate to form tissues and organs.
Animals originally evolved in the sea. Lineages of arthropods colonised land around the same time as land plants, probably between 510–471 million years ago during the Late Cambrian or Early Ordovician.Vertebrates such as the lobe-finned fishTiktaalik started to move on to land in the late Devonian, about 375 million years ago. Animals occupy virtually all of earth's habitats and microhabitats, including salt water, hydrothermal vents, fresh water, hot springs, swamps, forests, pastures, deserts, air, and the interiors of animals, plants, fungi and rocks. Animals are however not particularly heat tolerant; very few of them can survive at constant temperatures above 50°C (122°F). Only very few species of animals (mostly nematodes) inhabit the most extreme cold deserts of continental Antarctica.
The blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus) is the largest animal that has ever lived, weighing up to at least 190 tonnes and measuring up to 33.6 metres (110ft) long. The largest extant terrestrial animal is the African bush elephant (Loxodonta africana), weighing up to 12.25 tonnes and measuring up to 10.67 metres (35.0ft) long. The largest terrestrial animals that ever lived were titanosaursauropod dinosaurs such as Argentinosaurus, which may have weighed as much as 73 tonnes. Several animals are microscopic; some Myxozoa (obligate parasites within the Cnidaria) never grow larger than 20µm, and one of the smallest species (Myxobolus shekel) is no more than 8.5µm when fully grown.
Numbers and habitats
The following table lists estimated numbers of described extant species for the animal groups with the largest numbers of species, along with their principal habitats (terrestrial, fresh water, and marine), and free-living or parasitic ways of life. Species estimates shown here are based on numbers described scientifically; much larger estimates have been calculated based on various means of prediction, and these can vary wildly. For instance, around 25,000–27,000 species of nematodes have been described, while published estimates of the total number of nematode species include 10,000–20,000; 500,000; 10 million; and 100 million. Using patterns within the taxonomic hierarchy, the total number of animal species—including those not yet described—was calculated to be about 7.77 million in 2011.[lower-alpha 1]
The oldest animals are found in the Ediacaran biota, towards the end of the Precambrian, around 610 million years ago. It had long been doubtful whether these included animals, but the discovery of the animal lipid cholesterol in fossils of Dickinsonia establishes that these were indeed animals. Animals are thought to have originated under low-oxygen conditions, suggesting that they were capable of living entirely by anaerobic respiration, but as they became specialized for aerobic metabolism they became fully dependent on oxygen in their environments.
Some palaeontologists have suggested that animals appeared much earlier than the Cambrian explosion, possibly as early as 1 billion years ago.Trace fossils such as tracks and burrows found in the Tonian period may indicate the presence of triploblastic worm-like animals, roughly as large (about 5mm wide) and complex as earthworms. However, similar tracks are produced today by the giant single-celled protist Gromia sphaerica, so the Tonian trace fossils may not indicate early animal evolution. Around the same time, the layered mats of microorganisms called stromatolites decreased in diversity, perhaps due to grazing by newly-evolved animals.
Several animal phyla lack bilateral symmetry. Among these, the sponges (Porifera) probably diverged first, representing the oldest animal phylum. Sponges lack the complex organization found in most other animal phyla; their cells are differentiated, but in most cases not organised into distinct tissues. They typically feed by drawing in water through pores.
The Ctenophora (comb jellies) and Cnidaria (which includes jellyfish, sea anemones, and corals) are radially symmetric and have digestive chambers with a single opening, which serves as both mouth and anus. Animals in both phyla have distinct tissues, but these are not organised into organs. They are diploblastic, having only two main germ layers, ectoderm and endoderm. The tiny placozoans are similar, but they do not have a permanent digestive chamber.
The remaining animals, the great majority—comprising some 29 phyla and over a million species—form a clade, the Bilateria. The body is triploblastic, with three well-developed germ layers, and their tissues form distinct organs. The digestive chamber has two openings, a mouth and an anus, and there is an internal body cavity, a coelom or pseudocoelom. Animals with this bilaterally symmetric body plan and a tendency to move in one direction have a head end (anterior) and a tail end (posterior) as well as a back (dorsal) and a belly (ventral); therefore they also have a left side and a right side.
Having a front end means that this part of the body encounters stimuli, such as food, favouring cephalisation, the development of a head with sense organs and a mouth. Many bilaterians have a combination of circular muscles that constrict the body, making it longer, and an opposing set of longitudinal muscles, that shorten the body; these enable soft-bodied animals with a hydrostatic skeleton to move by peristalsis. They also have a gut that extends through the basically cylindrical body from mouth to anus. Many bilaterian phyla have primary larvae which swim with cilia and have an apical organ containing sensory cells. However, there are exceptions to each of these characteristics; for example, adult echinoderms are radially symmetric (unlike their larvae), while some parasitic worms have extremely simplified body structures.
Protostomes and deuterostomes differ in several ways. Early in development, deuterostome embryos undergo radial cleavage during cell division, while many protostomes (the Spiralia) undergo spiral cleavage. Animals from both groups possess a complete digestive tract, but in protostomes the first opening of the embryonic gut develops into the mouth, and the anus forms secondarily. In deuterostomes, the anus forms first while the mouth develops secondarily. Most protostomes have schizocoelous development, where cells simply fill in the interior of the gastrula to form the mesoderm. In deuterostomes, the mesoderm forms by enterocoelic pouching, through invagination of the endoderm.
The Ecdysozoa are protostomes, named after their shared trait of ecdysis, growth by moulting. They include the largest animal phylum, the Arthropoda, which contains insects, spiders, crabs, and their kin. All of these have a body divided into repeating segments, typically with paired appendages. Two smaller phyla, the Onychophora and Tardigrada, are close relatives of the arthropods and share these traits. The ecdysozoans also include the Nematoda or roundworms, perhaps the second largest animal phylum. Roundworms are typically microscopic, and occur in nearly every environment where there is water; some are important parasites. Smaller phyla related to them are the Nematomorpha or horsehair worms, and the Kinorhyncha, Priapulida, and Loricifera. These groups have a reduced coelom, called a pseudocoelom.
In the classical era, Aristotle divided animals,[lower-alpha 4] based on his own observations, into those with blood (roughly, the vertebrates) and those without. The animals were then arranged on a scale from man (with blood, 2 legs, rational soul) down through the live-bearing tetrapods (with blood, 4 legs, sensitive soul) and other groups such as crustaceans (no blood, many legs, sensitive soul) down to spontaneously-generating creatures like sponges (no blood, no legs, vegetable soul). Aristotle was uncertain whether sponges were animals, which in his system ought to have sensation, appetite, and locomotion, or plants, which did not: he knew that sponges could sense touch, and would contract if about to be pulled off their rocks, but that they were rooted like plants and never moved about.
In 1758, Carl Linnaeus created the first hierarchical classification in his Systema Naturae. In his original scheme, the animals were one of three kingdoms, divided into the classes of Vermes, Insecta, Pisces, Amphibia, Aves, and Mammalia. Since then the last four have all been subsumed into a single phylum, the Chordata, while his Insecta (which included the crustaceans and arachnids) and Vermes have been renamed or broken up. The process was begun in 1793 by Jean-Baptiste de Lamarck, who called the Vermes une espèce de chaos (a chaotic mess)[lower-alpha 5] and split the group into three new phyla, worms, echinoderms, and polyps (which contained corals and jellyfish). By 1809, in his Philosophie Zoologique, Lamarck had created 9 phyla apart from vertebrates (where he still had 4 phyla: mammals, birds, reptiles, and fish) and molluscs, namely cirripedes, annelids, crustaceans, arachnids, insects, worms, radiates, polyps, and infusorians.
In 1874, Ernst Haeckel divided the animal kingdom into two subkingdoms: Metazoa (multicellular animals, with five phyla: coelenterates, echinoderms, articulates, molluscs, and vertebrates) and Protozoa (single-celled animals), including a sixth animal phylum, sponges. The protozoa were later moved to the former kingdom Protista, leaving only the Metazoa as a synonym of Animalia.
↑ The application of DNA barcoding to taxonomy further complicates this; a 2016 barcoding analysis estimated a total count of nearly 100,000 insect species for Canada alone, and extrapolated that the global insect fauna must be in excess of 10 million species, of which nearly 2 million are in a single fly family known as gall midges (Cecidomyiidae).
A chordate is an animal of the phylum Chordata. During some period of their life cycle, chordates possess a notochord, a dorsal nerve cord, pharyngeal slits, and a post-anal tail: these four anatomical features define this phylum. Chordates are also bilaterally symmetric, and have a coelom, metameric segmentation, and circulatory system.
Cnidaria is a phylum under kingdom Animalia containing over 11,000 species of aquatic animals found both in freshwater and marine environments: they are predominantly marine.
The flatworms, flat worms, Platyhelminthes, Plathelminthes, or platyhelminths are a phylum of relatively simple bilaterian, unsegmented, soft-bodied invertebrates. Unlike other bilaterians, they are acoelomates, and have no specialized circulatory and respiratory organs, which restricts them to having flattened shapes that allow oxygen and nutrients to pass through their bodies by diffusion. The digestive cavity has only one opening for both ingestion and egestion ; as a result, the food cannot be processed continuously.
Priapulida, sometimes referred to as penis worms, is a phylum of unsegmented marine worms. The name of the phylum relates to the Greek god of fertility, because their general shape and their extensible spiny introvert may recall the shape of a penis. They live in the mud and in comparatively shallow waters up to 90 metres (300 ft) deep. Some species show a remarkable tolerance for hydrogen sulfide and anoxia. They can be quite abundant in some areas. In an Alaskan bay as many as 85 adult individuals of Priapulus caudatus per square meter has been recorded, while the density of its larvae can be as high as 58,000 per square meter.
The bilateria or bilaterians are animals with bilateral symmetry as an embryo, i.e. having a left and a right side that are mirror images of each other. This also means they have a head and a tail as well as a belly and a back. Nearly all are bilaterally symmetrical as adults as well; the most notable exception is the echinoderms, which achieve secondary pentaradial symmetry as adults, but are bilaterally symmetrical during embryonic development.
Acoelomorpha is a subphylum of very simple and small soft-bodied animals with planula-like features which live in marine or brackish waters. They usually live between grains of sediment, swimming as plankton, or crawling on other organisms, such as algae and corals. With the exception of two acoel freshwater species, all known Acoelomorphs are marine.
Cephalization is an evolutionary trend in which, over many generations, the mouth, sense organs, and nerve ganglia become concentrated at the front end of an animal, producing a head region. This is associated with movement and bilateral symmetry, such that the animal has a definite head end. This led to the formation of a highly sophisticated brain in three groups of animals, namely the arthropods, cephalopod molluscs, and vertebrates.
Xenoturbella is a genus of very simple bilaterians up to a few centimeters long. It contains a small number of marine benthic worm-like species.
Marine life, or sea life or ocean life, is the plants, animals and other organisms that live in the salt water of the sea or ocean, or the brackish water of coastal estuaries. At a fundamental level, marine life affects the nature of the planet. Marine organisms produce oxygen and sequester carbon. Shorelines are in part shaped and protected by marine life, and some marine organisms even help create new land. The term marine comes from the Latin mare, meaning sea or ocean.
Vernanimalcula guizhouena is an acritarch dating from 600 to 580 million years ago; it was between 0.1 and 0.2 mm across. Vernanimalcula means "small spring animal", referring to its appearance in the fossil record at the end of the Marinoan Glaciation and the belief upon discovery it was an animal.
The evolutionary history of life on Earth traces the processes by which living and fossil organisms evolved, from the earliest emergence of life to the present. Earth formed about 4.5 billion years (Ga) ago and evidence suggests life emerged prior to 3.7 Ga. The similarities among all known present-day species indicate that they have diverged through the process of evolution from a common ancestor. Approximately 1 trillion species currently live on Earth of which only 1.75–1.8 million have been named and 1.6 million documented in a central database. These currently living species represent less than one percent of all species that have ever lived on earth.
Marine invertebrates are the invertebrates that live in marine habitats. Invertebrate is a blanket term that includes all animals apart from the vertebrate members of the chordate phylum. Invertebrates lack a vertebral column, and some have evolved a shell or a hard exoskeleton. As on land and in the air, marine invertebrates have a large variety of body plans, and have been categorised into over 30 phyla. They make up most of the macroscopic life in the oceans.
In biology, a phylum is a level of classification or taxonomic rank below kingdom and above class. Traditionally, in botany the term division has been used instead of phylum, although the International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants accepts the terms as equivalent. Depending on definitions, the animal kingdom Animalia or Metazoa contains approximately 35 phyla; the plant kingdom Plantae contains about 14, and the fungus kingdom Fungi contains about 8 phyla. Current research in phylogenetics is uncovering the relationships between phyla, which are contained in larger clades, like Ecdysozoa and Embryophyta.
The Cambrian explosion or Cambrian radiation was an event approximately 541 million years ago in the Cambrian period when practically all major animal phyla started appearing in the fossil record. It lasted for about 13 – 25 million years and resulted in the divergence of most modern metazoan phyla. The event was accompanied by major diversification of other organisms.
The urbilaterian is the hypothetical last common ancestor of the bilaterian clade, i.e., all animals having a bilateral symmetry.
Deuterostomes constitute a superphylum of animals. It is a sister clade of Protostomia, with which it forms the Nephrozoa clade.
Protostomia is a clade of animals containing phyla including the arthropods, annelids, and molluscs. Together with the deuterostomes and xenacoelomorpha, its members make up the Bilateria, mostly comprising animals with bilateral symmetry and three germ layers. The major distinctions between deuterostomes and protostomes are found in embryonic development and is based on the embryological origins of the mouth and anus.
Brachiopods, phylum Brachiopoda, are a group of lophotrochozoan animals that have hard "valves" (shells) on the upper and lower surfaces, unlike the left and right arrangement in bivalve molluscs. Brachiopod valves are hinged at the rear end, while the front can be opened for feeding or closed for protection. Two major groups are recognized, articulate and inarticulate. The word "articulate" is used to describe the tooth-and-groove features of the valve-hinge which is present in the articulate group, and absent from the inarticulate group. This is the leading diagnostic feature (fossilizable), by which the two main groups can be readily distinguished. Articulate brachiopods have toothed hinges and simple opening and closing muscles, while inarticulate brachiopods have untoothed hinges and a more complex system of muscles used to keep the two valves aligned. In a typical brachiopod a stalk-like pedicle projects from an opening in one of the valves near the hinges, known as the pedicle valve, keeping the animal anchored to the seabed but clear of silt that would obstruct the opening.
Nephrozoa is a major clade of bilaterians, divided into the protostomes and the deuterostomes, containing almost all animal phyla and over a million extant species. Its sister clade is the Xenacoelomorpha. The Ambulacraria was formerly thought to be sister to the Xenacoelomorpha, forming the Xenambulacraria as basal Deuterostomes, or basal Bilateria invalidating Nephrozoa and Deuterostomes in earlier studies. The coelom, the digestive tract and excretory organs, and nerve cords developed in the Nephrozoa.
The evolution of nervous systems dates back to the first development of nervous systems in animals. Neurons developed as specialized electrical signaling cells in multicellular animals, adapting the mechanism of action potentials present in motile single-celled and colonial eukaryotes. Simple nerve nets seen in animals like Cnidaria (jellyfish) evolved first, consisted of polymodal neurons which serve a dual purpose in motor and sensory functions. Cnidarians can be compared to Ctenophores, which although are both jellyfish, have very different nervous systems. Unlike Cnidarians, Ctenophores have neurons that use electrochemical signaling. This was perplexing because the phylum Ctenophora was considered to be more ancient than that of Porifera (sponges), which have no nervous system at all. This led to the rise of two theories which described how the early nervous system came about. One theory stated that the nervous system came about in an ancestor basal to all of these phylum, however was lost in Porifera. The other theory states that the nervous system arose independently twice, one basal to Cnidarians and one basal to Ctenophores. Bilateral animals – ventral nerve cords in invertebrates and dorsal nerve cords supported by a notochord in chordates-- evolved with a central nervous system that was around a central region, a process known as cephalization.
↑ Cresswell, Julia (2010). The Oxford Dictionary of Word Origins (2nd ed.). New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN978-0-19-954793-7. 'having the breath of life', from anima 'air, breath, life'.
↑ "Animal". The American Heritage Dictionary (4th ed.). Houghton Mifflin Company. 2006.
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↑ Maloof, Adam C.; Rose, Catherine V.; Beach, Robert; Samuels, Bradley M.; Calmet, Claire C.; Erwin, Douglas H.; Poirier, Gerald R.; Yao, Nan; Simons, Frederik J. (17 August 2010). "Possible animal-body fossils in pre-Marinoan limestones from South Australia". Nature Geoscience. 3 (9): 653–659. Bibcode:2010NatGe...3..653M. doi:10.1038/ngeo934.
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