Vertebrates

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Vertebrates
In a modern system of classification, all animals can be divided into two
groups – vertebrates and invertebrates. Vertebrates are animals that have
a skeleton inside their bodies. Biologists call this an internal skeleton. In
this lesson you will be using biological keys, to classify vertebrates.
What is a vertebrate?
An internal skeleton includes a
backbone which is made up of
bones called vertebrae.
A vertebra
Vertebra is one bone in a
backbone; vertebrae is more
than one bone from a
backbone
© State of New South Wales,
Department of Education and
Training, 2004.
Human skeleton
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All other animals are called invertebrates. Invertebrates do not have an
internal skeleton. Examples of invertebrates include sponges, jellyfish,
corals, worms, shellfish, octopuses, starfish, spiders and insects.
What are some examples of
vertebrates?
Examples of vertebrates include humans, dogs, cats, birds, snakes,
crocodiles, turtles, frogs, lizards and fish.
green tree frog
sardine
king parrot
forest dragon
dog
Some examples of vertebrates
© State of New South Wales, Department of Education and Training, 2004
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Living things

As you know, there are a large number of vertebrates. This is going to
make studying these animals very hard, isn’t it? It will be easier if you
can make even smaller groups. And this is what biologists have done.
How can we classify vertebrates?
Vertebrates can be divided into five smaller groups. These vertebrate
groups are called classes. Do you know what they are? The five classes
are fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals.
Use a key to classify the five vertebrates shown previously.
vertebrate animals
feathers
no feathers
birds
hair or fur
no hair or fur
mammals
scales
no scales
amphibians
gills
lungs
fish
reptiles
A vertebrate key
Let’s begin with a dog.
Starting at the top of the key, the first question to ask yourself is – does a
dog have feathers? The answer is no, so you go to no feathers. Then,
does a dog have hair or fur? Yes, a dog has hair. Therefore, from the
key, a dog belongs to the mammal class.
Now you can practise using the vertebrate key to classify the other four
vertebrates shown in the previous picture.
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Activity: How can we classify vertebrates?
Complete the table below.
Vertebrate
Class
Forest dragon
King parrot
sardine
Green tree frog
Check your response by going to the suggested answers section.
Preparing for the Exercise
These exercises show your teacher how well you can use a biological
key.
Go to the exercises section and complete Exercise: Vertebrates
Now you can use your knowledge of classification to play a game.
Vertebrate snap – a learning game
This game is designed so that you can have fun while you are learning
more about vertebrates.
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Living things

Activity: Vertebrate snap – a learning game
On the following pages, there are drawings of thirty different vertebrates.
There are six different examples each of fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds
and mammals. Detach the two sheets of vertebrates. Cut along the lines
to produce thirty different cards.
Sort the thirty different vertebrate cards into five groups – fish,
amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. Use the key ‘A vertebrate key’
to help you decide.
Now write the name of each vertebrate into the correct box in the table
below.
Vertebrate class
Examples from vertebrate cards
fish
amphibians
reptiles
birds
mammals
Check your response by going to the suggested answers section.
Playing the game
You need at least one other person to play this card game.
Almost anyone will do!
How do you play the game?
1
Shuffle the cards.
2
Deal out all the cards face down.
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3
Take turns to place a card in the centre of the table, face up, one on
top of the other.
4
When two animal cards from the same vertebrate class are put one
on top of the other, everyone has a chance to win the card pile. The
first person to shout ‘snap’, put their hand on the cards and then say
to what class the two vertebrates belong, wins the card pile.
5
The person who ends up with all the cards wins the game.
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Living things

bat
dog
dolphin
parrot
ptarmigan
frogmouth
crocodile
dinosaur
bearded dragon
axolotl
marsh frog
salamander
leatherjacket
sardine
shark
© State of New South Wales, Department of Education and Training, 2004
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Living things

bilby
platypus
ring tailed possum
ibis
kingfisher
hummingbird
snake
turtle
salamander
river frog
tree frog
water holding frog
tuna
whiting
seahorse
© State of New South Wales, Department of Education and Training, 2004
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Living things