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Animal Phyla

Some examples of animal diversity.

A Phylum (pl. Phyla) is the largest formal major grouping within animal taxonomy. This list is presented in alphabetical order, and not in any systematic/evolutionary arrangement. This list is also available in table form. Science is by no means static. There are arguments of all sizes and shapes about the taxonomy of the Animal Phyla. Other sources may combine or split these listed Phyla. However, at this time, the list presented here should stand in good stead for an introduction to the topic of animal diversity.

There are approximately 2 million animal species that have been described by science.

This list tries to give the following information on each Phylum:

  • Phylum Name
  • A link to a subpage discussing that Phylum in more detail (if it yet exists)
  • Name Meaning (in English)
  • An English Common Name, where one is in regular use
  • Distinguishing characteristics of animals within the Phylum
  • An approximate number of species described within that Phylum. Since zoology fortunately refuses to stand still, this number can change.

Oh! And there's a quiz at the end. See also Lesson Plan for Animal Phyla. Or head to Introduction_to_Taxonomy for more on that topic. You can also visit Plant Divisions (Phyla), the equivalent page for plants.

Contents

AcanthocephalaEdit

 
An Acanthocephalan, Macracanthorhynchus hirudinaceus, adult.

Acanthocephala

Name Meaning: Thorny head

English Common Name: Thorny-headed worms

Major distinguishing characteristics: Reversible spiny proboscis

Approximate number of species described: 1,151

AcoelomorphaEdit

 
Acoelomorpha

Acoelomorpha

Name Meaning: Without gut

English Common Name: Acoels

Major distinguishing characteristics: No mouth or alimentary canal

Approximate number of species described: unknown

AnnelidaEdit

 
An feather duster worm of the family Sabellidae in parchment tube.

Annelida

Name Meaning: Little ring

English Common Name: Segmented worms, annelids

Major distinguishing characteristics: Multiple circular segments

Approximate number of species described: 22,000 modern

ArthropodaEdit

 
A scorpion, an example of an Arthropod

Arthropoda

Name Meaning: Jointed foot

English Common Name: Arthropods

Major distinguishing characteristics: Chitin exoskeleton

Approximate number of species described: 1,134,000+

BrachiopodaEdit

 
Brachiopod Isocrania costata.

Brachiopoda

Name Meaning: Arm foot

English Common Name: Lamp shells, brachiopod

Major distinguishing characteristics: Lophophore and pedicle

Approximate number of species described: between 300 and 500 extant

BryozoaEdit

 
A freshwater Bryozoan, species unknown.

Bryozoa

Name Meaning: Moss animals

English Common Name: Moss animals, sea mats, bryozoans

Major distinguishing characteristics: Lophophore, no pedicle, ciliated tentacles

Approximate number of species described: about 5,000 living species

ChaetognathaEdit

 
Chaetognathans.

Chaetognatha

Name Meaning: Longhair jaw

English Common Name: Arrow worms

Major distinguishing characteristics: Chitinous spines either side of head, fins

Approximate number of species described: about 100 modern species

ChordataEdit

 
Clavelina lepadiformis, a non-vertebrate chordates.

Chordata

Name Meaning: Cord

English Common Name: Chordates

Major distinguishing characteristics: Hollow dorsal nervous chord

Approximate number of species described: about 100,000+

CnidariaEdit

 
Cynarina lacrymalis an anthozoan member of the Phylum Cnidaria.

Cnidaria

Name Meaning: Stinging nettle

English Common Name: Coelenterates, cnidarians, sea anemones, jellies, hydra

Major distinguishing characteristics: Cnidocytes (stinging cells)

Approximate number of species described: about 11,000

CtenophoraEdit

 
Mertensia, a Ctenophore.

Ctenophora

Name Meaning: Comb bearer

English Common Name: Comb jellies, Ctenophores

Major distinguishing characteristics: Eight "comb rows" of fused cilia

Approximate number of species described: about 100 modern species

CycliophoraEdit

 
Symbion pandora, a Cycliphoran.

Cycliophora

Name Meaning: Wheel carrying

English Common Name: Symbion

Major distinguishing characteristics: Circular mouth surrounded by small cilia

Approximate number of species described: at least 3

EchinodermataEdit

 
Crinoideos, an example of Ecinoderms.

Echinodermata

Name Meaning: Spiny skin

English Common Name: Echinoderms

Major distinguishing characteristics: Five-fold radial symmetry, mesodermal layer, calcified spines

Approximate number of species described: about 7,000 living species and 13,000 extinct ones

EntoproctaEdit

 
Barentsa discreta suzukokemusi, a species of goblet worm.

Entoprocta

Name Meaning: Inside anus

English Common Name: Goblet worm

Major distinguishing characteristics: Anus inside ring of cilia

Approximate number of species described: about 150

GastrotrichaEdit

 
Chaetonotus polyspinosus a species of meiofauna.

Gastrotricha

Name Meaning: Hair stomach

English Common Name: Meiofauna

Two terminal adhesive tubes

Approximate number of species described: about 690

GnathostomulidaEdit

 
Gnathostomula paradoxa, a jaw worm.

Gnathostomulida

Name Meaning: Jaw orifice

English Common Name: Jaw worms

Major distinguishing characteristics:

Approximate number of species described: about 100

HemichordataEdit

 
Glossograptus whitfieldii, a fossil hemichordate.

Hemichordata

Name Meaning: Half cord

English Common Name: Acorn worms

Major distinguishing characteristics: Stomochord in collar

Approximate number of species described: about 100 living species

KinorhynchaEdit

 
Paracentrophyes quadridentatus, a mud dragon.

Kinorhyncha

Name Meaning: Motion snout

English Common Name: Mud dragons

Major distinguishing characteristics: Eleven segments, each with a dorsal plate

Approximate number of species described: about 150

LoriciferaEdit

 
A member of the Phylum Loricifera, Pliciloricus enigmatus.

Loricifera

Name Meaning: Corset bearer

English Common Name: Brush heads

Major distinguishing characteristics: Umbrella-like scales at each end

Approximate number of species described: about 122

MicrognathozoaEdit

 
Limnonathia, drawing, a Micrognathozoan.

Micrognathozoa (sometimes called Phylum Gnathifera)

Name Meaning: Tiny jaw animals

English Common Name: Micrognathozoans

Major distinguishing characteristics: Accordion like extensible thorax

Approximate number of species described: 1

MolluscaEdit

 
A group of Gastropod shells, Phylum Mollusca.

Mollusca

Name Meaning: Thin shell

English Common Name: Mollusks or molluscs

Major distinguishing characteristics: Muscular foot and Mantle, round shell

Approximate number of species described: 85,000

MyxozoaEdit

 
Asolomoni, an example of Myxozoa.

Myxozoa

Name Meaning: Slime animals

English Common Name: Slime animals

Major distinguishing characteristics: Polar capsules resembling nematocysts

Approximate number of species described: 13,000

NematodaEdit

 
Mermis nigrescens beentree, a nematode worm.

Nematoda

Name Meaning: Thread like

English Common Name: Round worms, Nematodes

Major distinguishing characteristics: Round cross section, keratin, cuticle

Approximate number of species described: 80 000 - 1 million

NematomorphaEdit

 
A Gordian worm, Phylum Nematomorpha.

Nematomorpha

Name Meaning: Thread form

English Common Name: Horsehair worms

Major distinguishing characteristics:

Approximate number of species described: about 320

NemerteaEdit

 
Micrura alaskensis, a ribbon worm.

Nemertea

Name Meaning: A sea nymph

English Common Name: Ribbon worms

Major distinguishing characteristics:

Approximate number of species described: about 1200

OnychophoraEdit

 
Euperipatoides kanangrensis, a velvet worm.

Onychophora

Name Meaning: Claw bearer

English Common Name: Velvet worms

Major distinguishing characteristics: Legs tipped by chitinous claws

Approximate number of species described: about 200 modern

OrthonectidaEdit

 
Orthonetida, an Orthonectidan.

Orthonectida

Name Meaning: Straight swim

English Common Name: Orthonectida

Major distinguishing characteristics:

Approximate number of species described: about 20

PhoronidaEdit

 
Phoronis hippocrepis, a species of horseshoe worm.

Phoronida

Name Meaning: Zeus' mistress

English Common Name: Horseshoe worms

Major distinguishing characteristics: U-shaped gut

Approximate number of species described: 20

PlacozoaEdit

 
Trichoplax adhaerens, the only Placozoan.

Placozoa

Name Meaning: Plate animals

English Common Name: none

Major distinguishing characteristics:

Approximate number of species described: 1

PlatyhelminthesEdit

 
Gigantolina elongata, a flat worm.

Platyhelminthes

Name Meaning: Flat worms

English Common Name: Flat worms

Major distinguishing characteristics:

Approximate number of species described: about 25,000

PoriferaEdit

 
An unidentified sponge.

Porifera

Name Meaning: Pore bearer

English Common Name: Sponges

Major distinguishing characteristics: Perforated interior wall

Approximate number of species described: over 5,000 modern

PriapulidaEdit

 
Priapulus caudatus, a Priapulid worm.

Priapulida

Name Meaning: Penis

English Common Name: Priapulid worms

Major distinguishing characteristics: Retractable proboscis surrounded by papillae

Approximate number of species described: 17

RhombozoaEdit

 
Limnognathia maerski, a lozenge animal.

Rhombozoa

Name Meaning: Lozenge animal

English Common Name: Lozenge animals

Major distinguishing characteristics: Single axial cell surrounded by ciliated cells

Approximate number of species described: 75

RotiferaEdit

 
An unidentified rotifer.

Rotifera

Name Meaning: Wheel bearer English Common Name: Rotifers

Major distinguishing characteristics: Anterior crown of cilia

Approximate number of species described: about 2000

SipunculaEdit

 
Sipunculus nudus, a peanut worm.

Sipuncula

Name Meaning: Small tube

English Common Name: Peanut worms

Major distinguishing characteristics: Mouth surrounded by invertible tentacles

Approximate number of species described: 144-320

TardigradaEdit

 
Tardigrade Milnesium tardigradum in active state.

Tardigrada

Name Meaning: Slow step

English Common Name: Water bears

Major distinguishing characteristics: Four segmented body and head

Approximate number of species described: 1,000+

XenoturbellidaEdit

 
Xenoturbella bockii longitudinal section.

Xenoturbellida

Name Meaning: Strange flatworm

English Common Name: none

Major distinguishing characteristics: Ciliated deuterostome

Approximate number of species described: 2

QuizzesEdit

ReferencesEdit

  • Brusca, Richard C., Wendy Moore, Stephen M. Shuster. Invertebrate Zoology 3rd ed. 2016. Sinauer. 1104 pp.
  • Phylum on Wikipedia
  Subject classification: this is a science resource.
  Subject classification: this is a biology resource.