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Animal Classification

Classifying Animals

When you classify an animal you place it in the group to which it belongs. All animals are divided into groups. The major groups are fairly simple. Each group is then divided into smaller groups, and divided again, until you eventually place the animal in its exact position in the classification of the Animal Kingdom.

All of this may seem a bit complicated, and you are right, it is. For now, we are going to study seven groups, divided between animals with and without bones. We will only deal with insects and spiders in the group with no bones, and mammals, fish, birds, reptiles and amphibians in the group with bones.

What is an Animal?

That might seem like an odd question, but if we are going to classify them, we really ought to decide if they belong in the animal group in the first place. Animals are living organisms. This means they breathe, they eat, they grow and they reproduce (make more like themselves). Plants are living organisms, too. So, what is the difference between a plant and an animal? The biggest difference is that most plants do not move, whereas most animals do. The true difference, though, is that plants produce their own food, whereas animals feed off other things.

Bones or No Bones?

Once you have decided you have an animal, you need to decide where to put it. The Animal Kingdom is divided up into groups. Every animal belongs in a special place, sort of like an address. The first two groups are the vertebrates and invertebrates. The invertebrates are animals with no bones. These include insects, spiders, and other groups for things like crabs, jellyfish, oysters, earthworms and more. The vertebrates, or animals with bones, can be divided into five main groups. These are mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians.

Invertebrates (no bones)

We are only going to look at two groups of invertebrates. Spiders and insects. Many people thing that spiders are insects, but they are wrong.

  • Insects have three main body parts and six legs.
  • Spiders have two main body parts and eight legs.

Vertebrates (have bones)

There are five main groups. These groups can be split further, into warm-blooded and cold-blooded animals. A warm-blooded animal is like you and me. It keeps its body temperature the same, unless it is sick. Cold blooded animals don't keep their body temperatures the same, it changes according to the surroundings. So if the weather is hot, the animal is hot, and if the weather is cold, it is cold.

Warm-blooded:
Mammals:

  • Have hair or fur
  • Breathe air
  • Feed their young milk

Whiskers are a type of hair, so just having whiskers counts as having hair or fur. 

Birds:

  • Have wings and feathers
  • Breathe air
  • Lay eggs

Cold-blooded:
Fish:

  • Have scales, fins and tails
  • Breathe underwater (using gills)
Reptiles:
  • Have dry skins and scales
  • Breathe air
  • Lay eggs
Amphibians:
  • Have smooth wet or slimy skins
  • Spend part of their life in water and part on land

Now print out the chart!

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