Introduction to Vertebrate System

Vertebrate, which is also called the Craniates, is the predominant subphylum of the phylum Chordata. These species have a backbone through which they derived their names. The vertebrate system has two main divisions- the central nervous vertebrate system consisting of the spinal cord and brain. In humans, the peripheral nervous system consists of 12 pairs of cranial nerves and 31 pairs of spinal nerves. Vertebrates in animals are characterized by a muscular system primarily consisting of paired masses and a central nervous system enclosed under the backbone. Similarly, the vertebrate brain is connected to vital parts of the spinal system.

Vertebrate Nervous System

It is vital to learn about the vertebrate nervous system which is quite complex in nature. In animals, too, the vertebrate system is a complex process. The subphylum is widely known in the animal group. There are different members in this group including Amphibian, Reptilian, Aves, Mammalian, and others. The anatomic structure like the nervous system in the vertebrate is described according to their position. In animals, the upper back area is called the Dorsal, and the lower back is called the ventral. Similarly, terms like cephalic, cranial, anterior, and rostral refer to the end of the head of the body posture.

In humans, since they stand erect, the structure is quite complicated. In humans, the dorsal is equal to the posterior, and the ventral is similar to the anterior. Similarly, all objects located near the middle of the body are called medial and those which are far located are called the lateral. Proximal is the structure nearest to the central bulk of the structure.

Neurons often gather into the localized masses. At the peripheral nervous system, these accumulations are called the Ganglia in the central nervous system and are called the Nuclei. Different or motor nerve fibres carry away from the central nervous system.

In the central nervous system, the nerve fibres are well organized called Tracts. The ascending tracts carry impulses along with the spinal cord connected to the brain. These tracts are often according to their origin and termination.

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Primitive Condition

The vertebrate system in the body constitutes an advanced subdivision of the phylum Chordata. Every Chordate in their life carries a rodlike bar called the Notochord which runs at the length of the body. In the lower chordates, it lacks a vertebral column, which illustrates the primitive features of the chordate nervous system. In animals, the nerve cord is in a uniform look appearing dorsally placed tube with a hollow cavity. In amphioxus, the lower vertebrates like the lampreys, the sensory fibres, and motor fibres leave the cord in ventral roots and dorsal. The dorsal and ventral roots have separate nerves arising at alternate positions. In the fish nervous system, there is still an alternation of dorsal and ventral roots.

In higher vertebrate locations, there are two roots that unite in a single spinal nerve, which leaves the cord lying on the same line. When fins, legs, arms, and wings develop from different myotomes, nerves continue supplying original segments.

As a part of the comparative anatomy of brain in vertebrates, they are developed as the part of nerve cells located as the cephalic end of the nerve cord. In the initial stage, the diffuse collection of all nerve cells is regulated by the reflex activity of the spinal motor neurons. These cells are compared with the reticular formation and occupy the brainstem with higher vertebrates. In animals, like fish, the brainstem is the oldest portion of the brain. The fish nervous system is quite an interesting part to read and understand.


During the evolution of vertebrates, all the sensory systems in the body got connected with different parts of the brain. This includes the olfactory organs with forebrain, the eye with the midbrain, ear, and related to organs having hindbrain. These three sections are further developed through dorsal outgrowths which result in the formation of gray matter. During the formation of a three-part brainstem, it was then transformed in the form of the brain in five different regions- Metencephalon, Myelencephalon, Diencephalon, and Telencephalon. When we move to the tracing of the development of brain parts located in the different vertebrate classes, some of the general features are quite apparent.

It is vital to know that there is a correlation between certain brain part size and their importance. Some of the neural structures carry considerable size and have greater importance in animals from a primitive age. When animals progressed from primitive to recent, there is a shift in function from the lower brainstem.

Dominance of Cerebrum

When we ascend to the vertebrate scale, the cerebral hemispheres end up being an important association in the centres. In the cerebral hemisphere, the development begins in pairing outgrowth in the forebrain, serving as the olfactory reception. During this time, the hemisphere, also referred to as the paleopallium, is an olfactory lobe serving as the part of impulses. In amphibians, hemispheres have three different parts- the archipallium, basal nuclei, and paleopallium. All these three parts receive olfactory stimuli discharging impulses to the brain.

  • Archipallium works as the correlation and the forerunner of the mammalian hippocampus

  • Basal Nuclei are equal to the corpse striatum function as the associated with the thalamus.

Reptiles are in the advanced structure; the neopallium is placed between paleopallium and archipallium.

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FAQs on The Vertebrate System

1. What are the Different Types of Vertebrates?

Ans: When it comes to the vertebrate nervous system, there are 5 different types-


Fishes first emerged around 500 million ago and have more than 30000 species of fish living in the water. Among these, living species have different ranges from primitive to hagfishes, and diverse only fishes.


They have evolved from fully aquatic animals to the early Pennsylvanian subperiod. Under amphibians, there are three different living groups- Salamanders, anurans, and caecilians.


These air-breathing vertebrates have internal fertilization and epidermal scales which cover their body parts.


There are around 9,600 species of birds having feathers. These birds are warm-blooded vertebrates composed of reptiles and mammals.


There are 5000 species of mammals that differ from other vertebrates and are distinguished as per the feature.

2. What are the Functions of Vertebrates?

Ans: The main function of vertebrates or vertebral columns is to protect the spinal cord and offer stiffening for the body posture.

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