There are millions of different species in the world today – from the largest mammals to the smallest insects – and every single living being is classed as being either a vertebrate or an invertebrate. 95% of the animal population are invertebrates, compared to only 5% being vertebrates.


What Is a Vertebrate?

Vertebrates are animals that have a backbone. The backbone, also called the spinal column, is formed by bones called vertebrae that protect the spinal nerve, hence the term vertebrates for animals that have a spine. On the other hand, an invertebrate is an animal that does not have a spinal column or vertebrae.

Vertebrates have a skeleton that gives their bodies a solid form and structure and supports their muscles and organs. They also have a developed brain, heart, eyes, and mouth.

Types of Vertebrates

There are five main types of vertebrates and these are mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish. These are all animals that always possess a backbone. There are around 28,000 different species of fish, making it the biggest group of vertebrates out of the five types, compared with only 6,495 species of mammal in the world.

The fish group of vertebrates can also be divided further into Osteichthyes (bony fish, fish that have a skeleton made from bones), Chondrichthyes (sharks, manta rays and skates), and Agnatha (jawless fish).

Differences between Invertebrates and Vertebrates

Vertebrates Invertebrates
Do they have a backbone? Yes No
Do they have a heart? Yes Not all do and not a complex and developed one
Do they have a skeleton? Yes, they have a fully developed skeleton made from bones with the exception of sharks, manta rays, and skates that have a bone spinal column but then a skeleton made from cartilage. Most have no skeleton although some invertebrates such as spiders have an external skeleton made from hard material, called an exoskeleton.
Size Substantial size, can be very large and move very fast Mainly very small and slow-moving
How do they breathe? Through lungs or gills Through gills, absorbed through the body surface, or through the tracheae
Reproduction method Sexual reproduction Asexual reproduction
How many legs do they have? Never more than four limbs – either two arms and two legs, or four legs. The exception being those that have no limbs at all such as snakes. Can have many legs (mainly insects) or have none at all

There are also a number of other differences between vertebrates and invertebrates. For example, invertebrates all have a body that takes one of two forms – either a symmetrical body where the right and left side mirror each other, barring an obvious front end and an obvious back end or they have a round shape that is based around a mouth in the centre of the body.

Also, most invertebrates do not have blood but contain a yellowish or greenish substance. It is that colour because invertebrates do not have red blood cells.

Not only that, but vertebrates are much more intelligent than invertebrates and have complex and fully developed brains, unlike invertebrate animals.

List of Vertebrates

List of Vertebrate Animals

There is a vast number of animals that are vertebrates and some of them include:

  • Elephants
  • Giraffes
  • Leopards
  • Dogs
  • Cats
  • Deer
  • Wolves
  • Whales
  • Sharks
  • Dolphins
  • Snakes
  • Goldfish
  • Salmon
  • Trout
  • Manta Rays
  • Frogs
  • Toads
  • Lizards
  • Owls
  • Eagles
  • Flamingo
  • Ostriches

Vertebrates with Interesting Facts

  • The largest animals in the world are vertebrates.
  • There are many more species of invertebrates than there are vertebrates.
  • Mammals known as monotremes such as platypuses and echidnas are the only mammals that lay eggs.
  • There are no reptiles or amphibians in Antarctica as it is too cold for them.
  • Male and female birds are usually easy to tell apart as the male is often much more brightly coloured than the female so that they can attract the females.
  • Snakes can smell with their tongues.
  • Snakes can dislocate their jaw so that they can swallow their prey.
  • There are more than 600 venomous snakes in the world.
  • Snakes have many, many ribs to protect their organs.
  • The longest snake in the world was a reticulated python that was recorded as being 32 feet long in 1912.
  • Some sharks lay eggs while others give birth to live young.
  • Sharks go into a trance when they are upside down. This is called tonic immobility and scientists use it to make it safer to work with sharks.
  • Sharks simply grow more teeth whenever they lose them and can go through many sets of teeth in a lifetime. Larger species of shark lose and replace a set of teeth around every two weeks.
  • Bats, dolphins, whales, shrews and some birds all use echolocation to detect objects. Echolocation is also called bio sonar.
  • Some bats can live for up to thirty years.
  • Bats hang upside down so that they are ready to spread their wings and take off to avoid predators.
  • Frogs don’t drink water, they absorb it.
  • When flamingos are born the chicks are actually grey, not pink.
  • Owls eyes don’t move, which means that they have to turn their heads to look in a different direction. This type of eyesight is called binocular vision.
  • The roar of a male lion can be heard from several miles away.
  • Gorillas share around 98% of DNA with humans, making them a very close relative of us after chimpanzees.
  • Giant pandas have a wrist bone that is able to be used like a thumb.
  • A baby kangaroo (joey) is only around 2.5 centimetres long when born and stays in its mother’s pouch until it begins to come out for short periods of time at four months old. It doesn’t leave the pouch fully until it is ten months old.
  • Koala bears are not actually bears, they are marsupials like kangaroos and wallabies.
  • Cheetahs have been known to reach speeds of up to 75 miles per hour.
  • An elephant‘s tusks are actually incisor teeth.
  • The eyes, ears, and nose of a hippo are on the top of its head so that it can still hear, see, and breathe while in water.

Vertebrate Animals | Picture