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invertebrate(ĭn'vûr`təbrət, –brāt'), any animal lacking a backbone. The invertebrates include the tunicatestunicate
, marine animal of the phylum Chordata, which also includes the vertebrates. The adult form of most tunicates (also called urochordates) shows no resemblance to vertebrate animals, but such a resemblance is evident in the larva.
..... Click the link for more information. and lanceletslancelet,
name for small, fishlike lower chordate (see Chordata), also called amphioxus; it shows many affinities with the vertebrates. There are about 30 lancelet species, most belonging to the genus Brachiostoma (formerly Amphioxus).
..... Click the link for more information. of phylum Chordata, as well as all animal phyla other than Chordata. The major invertebrate phyla include: the sponges (PoriferaPorifera
[Lat.,=pore bearer], animal phylum consisting of the organisms commonly called sponges. It is the only phylum of the animal subkingdom Parazoa and represents the least evolutionarily advanced group of the animal kingdom.
..... Click the link for more information. ), coelenterates (CnidariaCnidaria
, phylum of invertebrate animals comprising the sea anemones, corals, jellyfish, and hydroids. Cnidarians are radially symmetrical (see symmetry, biological).
..... Click the link for more information. ), echinoderms (EchinodermataEchinodermata
[Gr.,=spiny skin], phylum of exclusively marine bottom-dwelling invertebrates having external skeletons of calcareous plates just beneath the skin. The plates may be solidly fused together, as in sea urchins, loosely articulated to facilitate movement, as in sea
..... Click the link for more information. ), flatworms (PlatyhelminthesPlatyhelminthes
, phylum containing about 20,000 species of soft-bodied, bilaterally symmetrical, invertebrate animals, commonly called flatworms. There are four classes: the free-living, primarily aquatic class, Turbellaria, and Trematoda, Cestoda, and Monogenea, which are
..... Click the link for more information. ), roundworms (NematodaNematoda
, phylum consisting of about 12,000 known species, and many more predicted species, of worms (commonly known as roundworms or threadworms). Nematodes live in the soil and other terrestrial habitats as well as in freshwater and marine environments; some live on the deep
..... Click the link for more information. ), segmented worms (AnnelidaAnnelida
[Lat., anellus=a ring], phylum of soft-bodied, bilaterally symmetrical (see symmetry, biological), segmented animals, known as the segmented, or annelid, worms.
..... Click the link for more information. ), mollusks (MolluscaMollusca
, taxonomic name for the one of the largest phyla of invertebrate animals (Arthropoda is the largest) comprising more than 50,000 living mollusk species and about 35,000 fossil species dating back to the Cambrian period.
..... Click the link for more information. ), and arthropods (ArthropodaArthropoda
[Gr.,=jointed feet], largest and most diverse animal phylum. The arthropods include crustaceans, insects, centipedes, millipedes, spiders, scorpions, and the extinct trilobites.
..... Click the link for more information. ). Invertebrates are tremendously diverse, ranging from microscopic wormlike mezozoans (see MezozoaMezozoa
, name of an animal subkingdom and also of the subkingdom's only phylum. The mezozoans are simple parasitic marine wormlike animals of only 20 to 30 cells, which are differentiated only into reproductive cells and ciliated cells.
..... Click the link for more information. ) to very large animals such as the giant squidsquid,
carnivorous marine cephalopod mollusk. The squid is one of the most highly developed invertebrates, well adapted to its active, predatory life. The characteristic molluscan shell is reduced to a horny plate shaped like a quill pen and buried under the mantle.
..... Click the link for more information. . Approximately 95% of all the earth's animal species are invertebrates; of these the vast majority are insectsinsect,
invertebrate animal of the class Insecta of the phylum Arthropoda. Like other arthropods, an insect has a hard outer covering, or exoskeleton, a segmented body, and jointed legs. Adult insects typically have wings and are the only flying invertebrates.
..... Click the link for more information. and other arthropods. Invertebrates are important as parasites and are essential elements of all ecological communities.
See A. Kaestner, Invertebrate Zoology (3 vol., 1967–70); R. D. Barnes, Invertebrate Zoology (5th ed. 1987); R. Buchsbaum et al., Animals without Backbones (3d ed. 1987).
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An animal lacking a backbone and internal skeleton.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
any animal lacking a backbone, including all species not classified as vertebrates
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005