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Animal diversity October 2007 for thumbnail.jpg

Animals are multicellular, eukaryotic organisms of the kingdom Animalia (also called Metazoa). Their body plan eventually becomes fixed as they develop, although some undergo a process of metamorphosis later on in their lives. Most animals are motile, meaning they can move spontaneously and independently. Most all animals must ingest other organisms or their products for sustenance, with the exception of those that form symbiotic relationships with photosynthetic organisms.

Most known animal phyla appeared in the fossil record as marine species during the Cambrian explosion, about 542 million years ago. Animals are divided into various sub-groups, some of which are: vertebrates (birds, mammals, amphibians, reptiles, fish); mollusks (clams, oysters, octopuses, squid, snails); arthropods (millipedes, centipedes, insects, spiders, scorpions, crabs, lobsters, shrimp); annelids (earthworms, leeches); sponges; and jellyfish.

Selected article

Meerkats in Namibia

Meerkat Manor is a British television programme produced by Oxford Scientific Films for Animal Planet International that ran for four series between September 2005 and August 2008. Blending more traditional animal documentary style footage with dramatic narration, the series told the story of the Whiskers, one of more than a dozen families of meerkats in the Kalahari Desert being studied as part of the Kalahari Meerkat Project, a long-term field study into the ecological causes and evolutionary consequences of the cooperative nature of meerkats. With the success of the programme in the UK, Animal Planet started broadcasting it on its national channels in Australia, Canada, and the US. It has since been rebroadcast in more than 160 other countries. Although the show faced criticism from viewers for not intervening when a meerkat was injured and faced death, as a whole Meerkat Manor enjoyed considerable success, and its experimental format broke new ground in animal documentary filming techniques. It was nominated for two Primetime Emmy Awards in 2007, and was a winner at the 2006 Omni Awards and at the 2006 and 2007 New York Festivals Award Galas.

Selected picture

Phidippus audax portrait
Credit: Opoterser

A portrait of a male Phidippus audax, also known as the daring or bold jumping spider. Here its iridescent chelicerae (mouthparts) are visible, as are its large forward-facing eyes, which give it good stereoscopic vision.

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When the fox dies, fowls do not mourn.

—Anonymous

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Selected animal

African elephant
Elephants are large mammals found in sub-Saharan Africa, and South and Southeast Asia. Traditionally, two species are recognised, the African elephant (pictured) and the Asian elephant, although some evidence suggests that African bush elephants and African forest elephants are separate species. The largest living terrestrial animals, male African elephants can reach a height of 4 m (13 ft) and weigh 7,000 kg (15,000 lb). Distinctive features include the trunk, used for many purposes, and tusks, which serve as tools and weapons. Females (or "cows") tend to live in family groups; males (or "bulls") leave their family groups when they reach puberty, and may live alone or with other males. Adult bulls mostly interact with family groups when looking for a mate. Elephants can live up to 70 years in the wild, and their intelligence has been compared to primates and cetaceans. African elephants are classed as vulnerable, while the Asian elephant is classed as endangered. Elephants are threatened by poaching for the ivory trade, habitat destruction and conflicts with local people. They are highly recognisable and have been featured in art, folklore, religion, literature and popular culture

Did you know...


Phyllodesmium kabiranum.jpg
  • ...that six new species of marine slugs in the genus Phyllodesmium (Sp. kabiranum pictured) have been described in the last two years?
  • ...that Maui's dolphin is the most endangered species of dolphin in the world, with only about 110 left?
  • ...that the land snail Euglandina rosea is a significant threat to Hawaiian freshwater snail known as Newcomb's snail (Erinna newcombi), because the predatory Euglandina is able to hunt Erinna under water?
  • ...that the body of the "X-ray fish" (Pristella maxillaris ) is so transparent that it is possible to see its backbone?
  • ...that even though the lancelets are classified as chordates, they lack a true backbone and well-defined head?


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