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Animal and Biomes Basics Theme Unit
Vertebrate Classification: Phylum Chordata



Vertebrate Classification: Phylum Chordata
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 6 to 8
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   7.81

Vocabulary
     challenging words:    archaebacteria, chordate, chordates, endoskeleton, eubacteria, fayr, lancelets, many-celled, monera, notochord, pharyngeal, protista, Tunicates, phylum, characteristic, internal


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Vertebrate Classification: Phylum Chordata
By Cindy Grigg
  

1     Biologists have described more than one million different kinds of living things on Earth. In order to study them, scientists divide them into groups based on similar traits. One system of classification divides all living things into five different kingdoms. They are animals, plants, fungi, monera, and protista. Some scientists use a six-kingdom system. This system divided monera into archaebacteria and eubacteria.
 
2     The kingdoms are then divided into five smaller groups: phylum, class, order, family, genus, and species. The animal kingdom is divided into about thirty-five different phyla (plural of phylum), or major groups. The animal kingdom has more species than any other kingdom.
 
3     Although a jellyfish and a person may not look very much alike, they belong to the same kingdom. People and jellyfish are both classified as animals. Animals are many-celled organisms that must obtain their food by eating other organisms. In addition, most animals reproduce sexually and can move from place to place. Biologists look for these characteristics in deciding whether an organism is an animal.
 
4     One important characteristic used to classify animals is whether or not they have a backbone or spine. An animal that does not have a backbone is called an invertebrate. Jellyfish, worms, spiders, and insects are all invertebrates. Most animal species are invertebrates (about ninety-five percent of all animals).
 
5     Vertebrates are all animals that have a backbone. Vertebrates are in the phylum Chordata. Members of this phylum are called chordates. Chordates share some common traits. At some point in their life cycle, they have a notochord, a nerve cord, and pharyngeal (fayr uhn JEE uhl) slits in the neck or throat. The notochord is a flexible rod that supports the animal's back. Lancelets are one chordate species that keep the notochord throughout their life cycle. Tunicates, on the other hand, have a notochord in the larval stage, but lose it when they reach the adult stage.

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