Animal Classifications :
Vertebrates for K12

[Introduction] [Mammals] [Mammals Links] [Amphibians] [Reptiles] [Birds] [Fish] [Good General Links]


This page is designed to provide information and links for students on vertebrates for classroom research projects. Teachers and librarians will have to evaluate each link for instructional purposes and appropriateness to age group.

Doing Research

If you need information on classification, use a good encyclopedia, such as World Book, in your school or public library. You'll find material on the classes and sub-classes scientists use in discussing animal classification. Classification of animals is based upon grouping animals according to characteristics they have in common and separating them on the basis of differences they have. You can skip the information below if you just want to look at links.

Animal Classification

Scientists who study living things are called biologists. Biologists classify living things into two kingdoms, the Plant Kingdom and the Animal Kingdom. The study of plants is called botany. Scientists who study plants are called botanists. The study of animals is called zoology. Scientists who study zoology are called zoologists.

Zoologists study thousands of different kinds of animals. They need some way of grouping animals on the basis of their similarities and differences into smaller and smaller groups. A good encyclopedia will explain this to you. Here's a try at explaining the classification system zoologists use. Look at the little chart below. Scientists divide the Animal Kingdom into smaller groups, called Subkingdoms. There are three subkingdoms. Each Subkingdoms is divided into smaller groups called phyla. Each Phylum [singular form of phyla] is divided further into subphyla. This sub-division goes on further, but hopefully you get the idea. Scientists use special scientific terms which have meaning. Once you have learned the scientific terms they make lots of sense. Just looking at the words because they are so long can be really "scary."

Animal Kingdom has
3 different Subkingdoms, [Protozoa, Parazoa & Metazoa]
The Subkingdom Metazoa has 22 different phyla. An example of a phylum is Arthropoda [spiders, lobsters & insects].
The Phylum, Chordata, has 3 different subphyla, one of which is called Vertebrates.


But what is a vertebrate? The vertebrates are animals which have a backbone. In the scientific classification system, the classification of Vertebrates looks like this:

Kingdom: Animal. [Animals get their food from plant life or other animals.]
Subkingdom: Metazoa. [Animals which have many cells and have a digestive cavity. You have a stomach.]
Phylum: Chordata. [Most of the animals in the phylum Chordata have a backbone and are called vertebrates. Animals in the other two phyla are quite primitive. Their primitive forms of "backbone" are called notochords.]
Subphylum: Vertebrates. These animals have a definite backbone. People are included in this subphylum because we have backbones.

Notice that in order to be included in the subphylum, Vertebrates, the animal must meet all the requirementss from the top [Kingdom] to bottom [Subphylum] in the classification system. The classification system is called a taxonomy because all conditions must be met as we move from the highest category [Kingdom] to the lowest category in which the animal is placed.

There are 7 different kinds of vertebrates. The vertebrates include fish [3 different kinds]; the amphibians [ex. frogs, toads]; reptilia [ex. reptiles such as snakes]; aves [birds] and mammalia [mammals such as dogs, deer]. You can see a chart of the vertebrates at BIOSIS

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Mammalia (Mammals)

What are mammals? Mammals include man and all other vertebrates who feed their babies with milk from the mother's body and have skin which is more or less covered by hair. Scientists place mammals as the highest form of life.

There are many different ways to do research on mammals. You can research by specific mammals, such as bears, or you can do a broader topic. A good encyclopedia article can help you broaden or narrow your research topic. For example, some mammals live much or all of their lives in water. They are called "aquatic." Aquatic means "growing in or living in or frequenting water." Some aquatic mammals are called marine mammals because they live much or all of their lives in the sea. The word, "marine," means "of the sea." Some marine mammals include dolphins, whales, walruses, seals, sea lions, and manatees.

See BIOSIS to see the different groups in which these groups are classified. For example, dolphins and whales are called Cetaceans. If you have questions about marine science, visit Ocean Link and look for "Ask a Marine Scientist."

Mammals Links

BIOSIS See the classification of all carnivores. Click on the class name, ex. Cetacean, for a list of zoological links. Tremendous site.
Marine Mammals Whales, seals, walruses, sea lions, manatees
Marsupials Kangaroos, possums, Tazmanian devils, koalas, wombats and marsupial wolves
Bats & Flying Foxes Mammals that fly. Click on Chiroptera for many links on bats. A good site is Bat Conservation Page

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Amphibians are vertebrates whose young live in water but the adults live on land. Amphibians include frogs, toads, newts, and salamanders. The study of amphibians and reptiles is called herpetology.

BIOSIS Links for all classes of amphibians.
Wildlife Web Many excellent general links on amphibians, plus good frog links.
Terra; Utopian Animal Kingdom Designed for kids. Includes amphibians.
Herp Link Care; FAQs; organizations; publications.
Amphibian and Reptile WWW Links Most links are for reptiles but has some excellent amphibian links, particularly conservation sites.
Herp Link - Care and FAQs How to care for your pets.
Amphibians Advanced. Gives genus, description of various types of amphibians.
The Minnesota New Country School Frog Project Students are studying deformed frogs.
Virtual Frog Dissection
Froggy Page Everything about frogs, sounds, pictures, etc.
Newt & Salamander Page Care of your pet; resources; pictures; other information.
Terrestrial Salamander Monitoring Program Advanced. Students may be interested in the experimental design, etc.
Salamanders Some basic information and pictures.
Salamanders Advanced. College text. Information on the salamander; diagram of brain, etc.
Herp Pictures: Newts & Salamanders Several pictures of salamanders.

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Reptiles include snakes, lizards, crocodiles, alligators, turtles, tortoises, and dinosaurs.

BIOSIS Links for all types of reptiles.
Herp Link Care; FAQs; organizations; publications.
Wildlife Web Resources on reptiles; herpetology; lots of info on crocodiles.
Jason's Snakes & Reptiles Jason has collected many links. Check it out. Iguanas, crocodiles, turtles, etc.; newsgroups; snake bite. Great site.
Amphibian & Reptile WWW Links Primarily links to reptile sites.
An Interactive Guide to Massachusetts Snakes Information on many kinds of snakes. Illustrated.
Greater Cincinnati Herpetological Society FAQs sheets on caring for reptiles and amphibians as pets. Advanced.
Komodo Dragon Short page with some information and pictures.
Lizards of Australia Information and pictures on dragon lizards, geckos, skinks, goannas, monitors and legless lizards; reproduction; facts & stats.
Ribbon Snakes Diet, range, pet care, other information. Pictures and bibiliography.
The Gator Hole Information on alligators; myths.

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The study of birds is called ornithology. Scientists who study birds are ornithologists.

BirdNet From the Ornithological Council. Under birds and birding, bird checklist for all types of birds with links. Page has organizations; a newsletter; research news and more.
Bird Anatomy Drawing of a bird; click on an area to get name and description of the anatomical part.
Birder's World Info about the magazine; under "Amazing Birds" information such as how birds hang on to branches; feather design; links
BirdWatcher's Digest Packed with information about birds; migration; resources.
ZooNet Wonderful pictures of many different birds. Browse.
National Audubon Society Kids links; teacher pages; under section Educate Yourself the section on Wild Wings Heading North is particularly interesting in tracking Canadian Snow Geese
Homes for Birds How to build birdhouses for different kinds of birds.
Ornithology Links Large number of Internet sites.
Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center Factsheets such as "How birds keep our world safe from insects"; Bird of the Month features a particular kind of bird with information and pictures.
Bird Links Lots of excellent links; an Education Index top spot. Must visit.
BirdOn Brief information and pictures on many kinds of birds; bird care; bird news; bird action; bird dictionary.
Birds Online Bird links; bird games; articles from past issues of Birds
Bird Feeding From Pennington Seeds. Information on bird feeders; a bird identification chart for some common birds.
How to Feed Wild Birds From Leisurelan Seeds. Extensive chart giving bird and types of seeds preferred.
National Academy of Natural Sciences Info on book series, Birds of North America. Samples given for auks, kingbirds, towhees, thrushes, chickadees, teals, red-winged blackbird and other birds.
The Ornithological Web Library Over 750 links in all areas as conservation, organizations; birding; population watching.
VIREO Slides from Academy of Natural Sciences. Section of slides available for non-profit slide lectures and slides available for other uses - contact info given for pricing.
The Chickadee Page Information, pictures and links on chickadees.
Cranes Page Lots of information and pictures. Great site.
Barn Owls Information; how to build a nest; how barn owls help organic farming. Advanced.
Online Book of Parrots An encyclopedic look at parrots.
The Raptor Center Raptors [birds of prey] include eagles, vultures, osprey, hawks, falcons, etc.] page has info on what to do if you find an injured bird; brief information and facts sheets on raptors under "General Information about Birds of Prey;" news; other links.
Roadrunner Photos from Ephesus Elementary School.
Birds of Costa Rica Pictures and information on the hummingbird, macaw, quetzels, and frigate birds of Costa Rica.
The Cardinal Page A must for Virginia's children. Info such as range, diet; culture page with songs, etc.
Wild Birds Unlimited Commercial site; educational resources include activities for young people as junior naturalists; info on bird houses; feeding birds; etc.
How Birds Fly Photographs from the book, How Birds Fly by David Goodnow.

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The study of fish is called ichthyology. The sub-phylum category for fish is called Pisces.

BIOSIS Links for every class of fish.
Fish Information Commercial hotel site. Lovely page with information on the Red Sea. Brief information on various fish, such as sharks, coral fishes, surgeon fish, and other sea life such as dolphins and whales. Lovely pictures.
Aquarium Fish Page Information on setting up community fish tanks; food; pictures of many kinds of aquarium fish.
Tropical Fish Atlas Lots of information on tropical fish. Use the Fish Index. Also nice pictures.

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General Links

Artic National Wildlife Refuge Information on birds, animals and people; controversy over oil wells; other interesting information.
Birmingham Zoo Keyword search by animal.
National Zoo - Photographs Many different types of animals.
Wildlife Web Includes vertebrates and invertebrates [spiders]. Links for bats, bears, cats, elephants, frogs, marine animals, primates, raptors, rhinos, snakes, and wolves. Great page.
Multimedia Animals Encyclopedia Great resource. Keyword search.
Smithsonian Photographic Archives Any pictures available on this site can be used for non-commercial purposes.
World Conservation Monitoring Centre Red List Search by class, order, family, etc. and country for endangered species. 1994 list so a little out-of-date.
Mammals of Costa Rica Discusses species such as monkeys, bats which live in Costa Rica. Illustrated. Higher level reading.
Mammals of New Mexico From New Mexico Museum of Natural Science. Information on extinct species of mammmals which lived in New Mexico.
Australian Mammals Information on marsupials, including the koala, wombat, kangaroo, marsupial wolf, possums and Tasmanian devils. Nice pictures. Be sure to visit the Berkeley site link on the page for more info.

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