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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.

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Portrait of Linnaeus on a brown background with the word "Linne" in the top right corner

Carl Linnaeus ( 23 May 1707 – 10 January 1778) was a Swedish botanist, physician, and zoologist, who laid the foundations for the modern biological naming scheme of binomial nomenclature. He is known as the father of modern taxonomy, and is also considered one of the fathers of modern ecology. Linnaeus was born in the countryside of Småland, in southern Sweden. He received most of his higher education at Uppsala University, and began giving lectures in botany there in 1730. He lived abroad between 1735 and 1738, where he studied and also published a first edition of his Systema Naturae in the Netherlands. He then returned to Sweden, where he became professor of medicine and botany at Uppsala. In the 1740s, he was sent on several journeys through Sweden to find and classify plants and animals. In the 1750s and '60s, he continued to collect and classify animals, plants, and minerals, and published several volumes. At the time of his death, he was one of the most acclaimed scientists in Europe.

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Coral
Credit: Toby Hudson

Corals are marine invertebrates that typically live in compact colonies of many identical individual polyps. Each polyp is a sac-like animal typically only a few millimeters in diameter and a few centimeters in length. Corals are major contributors to the physical structure of the coral reefs such as the Great Barrier Reef, where this photograph was taken. Coral reefs are under threat globally from ocean acidification and climate change.

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When the fox dies, fowls do not mourn.

—Anonymous

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A standing jaguar
The jaguar is a New World mammal of the Felidae family and one of four "big cats" in the Panthera genus, along with the lion, tiger and leopard of the Old World. The jaguar is the third-largest feline after the lion and tiger, and is the largest and most powerful feline in the Western Hemisphere. The jaguar's present range extends from Mexico (with occasional sightings in the United States) across much of Central America and south to Paraguay and northern Argentina. Physically, the spotted cat most closely resembles the leopard, although its behavioural and habitat characteristics are closer to those of the tiger. While dense jungle is its preferred habitat, the jaguar will range across a variety of forested and open terrain. It is strongly associated with the presence of water and is notable, along with the tiger, as a feline that enjoys swimming. The jaguar is a largely solitary, stalk-and-ambush predator, and is opportunistic in prey selection. It is also an apex and keystone predator, playing an important role in stabilizing ecosystems and regulating the populations of prey species. The jaguar has developed an exceptionally powerful bite, even relative to the other big cats.

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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