vertebrate

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vertebrate,

any animal having a backbone or spinal columnspinal column,
bony column forming the main structural support of the skeleton of humans and other vertebrates, also known as the vertebral column or backbone. It consists of segments known as vertebrae linked by intervertebral disks and held together by ligaments.
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. Verbrates can be traced back to the Silurian period. In the adults of nearly all forms the backbone consists of a series of vertebrae. All vertebrates belong to the subphylum Vertebrata of the phylum ChordataChordata
, phylum of animals having a notochord, or dorsal stiffening rod, as the chief internal skeletal support at some stage of their development. Most chordates are vertebrates (animals with backbones), but the phylum also includes some small marine invertebrate animals.
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. There are five classes of vertebrates: fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. General characteristics of vertebrate animals include their comparatively large size, the high degree of specialization of parts they exhibit, their bilaterally symmetrical structure, and their wide distribution over the earth. In addition to an internal skeleton of bone and cartilage or of cartilage alone, vertebrates have a spinal cord, a brain enclosed in a cranium, a closed circulatory system, and a heart divided into two, three, or four chambers. Most have two pairs of appendages that are variously modified as fins, limbs, or wings in the different classes. All animals without backbones are called invertebratesinvertebrate
, any animal lacking a backbone. The invertebrates include the tunicates and lancelets of phylum Chordata, as well as all animal phyla other than Chordata. The major invertebrate phyla include: the sponges (Porifera), coelenterates (Cnidaria), echinoderms
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; these do not form a homogeneous group as do vertebrates.

vertebrate

1. any chordate animal of the subphylum Vertebrata, characterized by a bony or cartilaginous skeleton and a well-developed brain: the group contains fishes, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals
2. of, relating to, or belonging to the subphylum Vertebrata