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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.

Acanthocephala[edit]

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

Acoelomorpha[edit]

Acoelomorpha

Acoelomorpha

Name Meaning: Without gut

English Common Name: Acoels

Major distinguishing characteristics: No mouth or alimentary canal

Approximate number of species described: unknown

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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

Arthropoda[edit]

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+

Brachiopoda[edit]

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

Bryozoa[edit]

A freshwater Bryozoan, species unknown.

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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

Chaetognatha[edit]

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

Chordata[edit]

Clavelina lepadiformis, a non-vertebrate chordates.

Chordata

Name Meaning: Cord

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English Common Name: Chordates

Major distinguishing characteristics: Hollow dorsal nervous chord

Approximate number of species described: about 100,000+

Cnidaria[edit]

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

Ctenophora[edit]

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

Cycliophora[edit]

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

Echinodermata[Casual for Blue Lightweight Retro Dot Canvas Polka Backpack Blue Teenage School School Bag Daisy Style Dot Evay Daypack Light Flower Cute Girls Waterproof Backpack w1avqAedit]

HippoWarehouse Shopping Gym Howl litres Bag x38cm Beach 10 Heart Fuchsia Tote My Ate 42cm 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

Entoprocta[edit]

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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

Gastrotricha[edit]

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

Gnathostomulida[edit]

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

Hemichordata[edit]

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

Kinorhyncha[edit]

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

Loricifera[edit]

A member of the Phylum Loricifera, Pliciloricus enigmatus.

Loricifera

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English Common Name: Brush heads

Major distinguishing characteristics: Umbrella-like scales at each end

Approximate number of species described: about 122

Micrognathozoa[edit]

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

Mollusca[Make Gives Limoncello HippoWarehouse You 10 Bag x38cm Beach Tote Life Lemons When Classic 42cm Red litres Gym Shopping wqwCSEX]

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


Nematoda[edit]

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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

Nematomorpha[edit]

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

Nemertea[edit]

Micrura alaskensis, a ribbon worm.

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Name Meaning: A sea nymph

English Common Name: Ribbon worms

Major distinguishing characteristics:

Approximate number of species described: about 1200

Onychophora[edit]

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

Orthonectida[edit]

Orthonetida, an Orthonectidan.

Orthonectida

Name Meaning: Straight swim

English Common Name: Orthonectida

Major distinguishing characteristics:

Approximate number of species described: about 20

Phoronida[edit]

Phoronida

Name Meaning: Zeus' mistress

English Common Name: Horseshoe worms

Major distinguishing characteristics: U-shaped gut

Approximate number of species described: 20

Placozoa[editHippoWarehouse Heart Bag My Howl litres Fuchsia 10 x38cm Shopping Ate Gym Beach 42cm Tote ]

Trichoplax adhaerens, the only Placozoan.

Placozoa

Name Meaning: Plate animals

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Major distinguishing characteristics:

Approximate number of species described: 1

Platyhelminthes[edit]

Gigantolina elongata, a flat worm.

Platyhelminthes

Name Meaning: Flat worms

English Common Name: Flat worms

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Approximate number of species described: about 25,000

Porifera[edit]

Porifera

Name Meaning: Pore bearer

English Common Name: Sponges

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Approximate number of species described: over 5,000 modern

Priapulida[edit]

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

Rhombozoa[edit]

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

Rotifera[edit]

An unidentified rotifer.
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Rotifera

Name Meaning: Wheel bearer English Common Name: Rotifers

Major distinguishing characteristics: Anterior crown of cilia

Approximate number of species described: about 2000

Sipuncula[edit]

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

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Name Meaning: Slow step

English Common Name: Water bears

Major distinguishing characteristics: Four segmented body and head

Approximate number of species described: 1,000+

Xenoturbellida[edit]

Xenoturbellida

Name Meaning: Strange flatworm

English Common Name: none

Major distinguishing characteristics: Ciliated deuterostome

Approximate number of species described: 2

Quizzes[edit]

References[edit]

  • 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.