Courses for Kids
Free study material
Free LIVE classes


share icon
share icon
Join Vedantu’s FREE Mastercalss


Animals that have skeletons and backbones are called vertebrates. There are different kinds of vertebrates that fall under various classes. These include humans, mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, and fish. 

Before we proceed to vertebrate characteristics, note that Vertebrata falls under phylum Chordata. Other sub-phyla are – Cephalochordata and Urochordata. 

Characteristics of Vertebrates 

Thinking what are the basic features of vertebrates? Read below to know more about it.

  • There is a distinct similarity in the anatomy of vertebrates with the presence of a vertebral column, gastrointestinal tract, and spinal cord.

  • Notochord develops into a vertebral column, and the vertebrae are present on the dorsal side.

  • Presence of the central nervous system is a crucial identifier. Nerve tube of the spinal cord in the anterior part expands into the brain. 

  • Jaws are present in some vertebrates. Order of vertebrates includes jawless species.

  • Internal skeleton aids in the distribution of different muscle attachment nodes.

Fun Fact!

Even though different types of vertebrates across the world include approximately 65,000 species, it does not amount to more than 3% of animals on the face of Earth. Hence most animal species in our world are actually invertebrates!

What is the Classification of Vertebrates?

Find out more about the classification of vertebrates with examples. 

Class – Mammalia 

Mammals have a four-chambered heart and warm blood. Usually, they give birth to their offspring, but exceptions like Echidna can also be found, which reproduce by laying eggs. The habitation of such vertebrates is varied.

Mammary glands are present for feeding the younger ones. Mammals have functional limbs and external pinna. Fertilization in these vertebrates is usually internal. Examples – kangaroo, dolphin, whale, platypus.

Class – Aves

Birds fall under this class of vertebra. The distinctive feature of Aves is the feather-covered body and forelimbs that evolved as wings for flight. An exception in this regard is Ostrich, which cannot fly.

Bones have air cavities, and additional chambers can be found in the digestive tract. Example – vulture, pigeon, crow, etc.

Class – Reptilia

The body of reptiles is covered by scutes or scales, and in some instances, the epidermal scales can be cast-off as well. There is no external pinna and the tympanum performs the auditory functions. Reptiles have three-chambered hearts, except crocodiles, which it is four-chambered. As opposed to other vertebrates, reptiles are cold-blooded animals. Examples – tortoise, turtle, crocodile, snake, etc. 

Class – Amphibia

Amphibians are both terrestrial and aquatic animals. The tympanum acts as the ear, and the body is covered by moist skin without scales. Cloaca acts as a common opening to the reproductive tract, urinary tract, and alimentary canal. Respiration is through both lungs and gills, and the heart is three-chambered. Examples – salamander, tree-frog, toad, etc.

Class – Pisces

This class includes fish with scales all over the body. These vertebrates are oviparous, and respiration takes place only through gills. Fish have two-chambered hearts, and the skeleton is made entirely of cartilage. Exception being sharks with a skeleton made up of both cartilage and bone.  

Test Your Knowledge 

  1. Vertebrates are of five kinds. Which of the following does not fall under vertebrate?

    1. Birds 

    2. Mammals 

    3. Reptiles 

    4. Arthropods

Ans. (d) Arthropods

  1. Which of the following vertebrates is not considered as a mammal, even though other characteristics of vertebrates are present?

    1. Sloth 

    2. Armadillo

    3. Whale 

    4. Shark 

Ans. (d) Shark

You can find out more about related topics from online study materials available over Vedantu’s platform. All you have to do is to install the app on your preferred device! Master our course materials and ace your exams with ease.

Vertebrates are those organisms that have skeletons, a bone structure, and a backbone. There are various types of vertebrates and they fall under various classes, some vertebrates are humans, birds, amphibians, mammals, fish, and reptiles. Vertebrata comes under the phylum Chordata. Other subcategories are - Cephalochordata and Urochordata.

The concept of vertebrates is taught in schools much earlier, however, the properties and characteristics of vertebrates are studied in depth in class 11 biology. Vertebrates are mainly discussed in the NCERT book in chapter 4 animal kingdom, chapter 21 control, and coordination, chapter seven structural organization in animals. These chapters are prescribed by the Central Board of secondary education and are taught in schools that follow the curriculum set by the CBSE. Properties and characteristics of vertebrates are extremely important in the sense that it carries significant weightage in the examinations. Students who are aspiring to go into the medical field will have to give NEET which is the national eligibility cum entrance test. The basis for NEET is the study of biology physics and chemistry of classes 11 and 12 and therefore students should first clear their bases which are taught in class 11 NCERT books.

Key Concepts That are Important to Study in Relation to Vertebrates-

  • 4.1.1 Levels of Organisation

  • 4.1.2 Symmetry

  • 4.1.3 Diploblastic and Triploblastic Organisation

  •  4.1.4 Coelom

  • 4.1.5 Segmentation

  • 4.1.6 Notochord


  • 4.2.1 Phylum – Porifera

  • 4.2.2 Phylum – Coelenterata (Cnidaria

  • 4.2.3 Phylum – Ctenophora

  • 4.2.4 Phylum – Platyhelminthes

  • 4.2.5 Phylum – Aschelminthes

  • 4.2.6 Phylum – Annelida

  • 4.2.7 Phylum – Arthropoda

  • 4.2.8 Phylum – Mollusca

  • 4.2.9 Phylum – Echinodermata

  • 4.2.10 Phylum – Hemichordata

  • 4.2.11 Phylum – Chordata

  • Class – Cyclostomata

  • Class – Chondrichthyes

  • Class – Osteichthyes

  • Class – Amphibia

  • Class – Reptilia

  • Class – Aves

  • Class – Mammalia

Last updated date: 26th Sep 2023
Total views: 369.9k
Views today: 7.69k
Want to read offline? download full PDF here
Download full PDF
Is this page helpful?

FAQs on Vertebrates

1. What are the characteristics of vertebrates?

The main characteristic feature of a vertebrate is its vertebral column which is also called the backbone, the backbone of vertebrates that runs from the head. The vertebral column is a part of the endoskeleton, it enables vertebrates to hold their shape.

  • The endoskeleton in vertebrates houses and protects the spinal cord

  • The vertebral column consists of repeating units called vertebrae.

  • Another characteristic feature of vertebrates is the endoskeleton which is made up of bone or cartilage.

  • The cartilage is a tough tissue that is made of protein also called collagen.

  • Bone is harder than cartilage and is made of a collagen matrix, minerals such as calcium et cetera.

  • The endoskeleton in vertebrates includes a cranium which is also called the skull, the skull is part of the endoskeleton which encloses and protects the brain.

  • The main features of vertebrates are the vertebral column, spinal cord, gastrointestinal tract.

2. Where can I find the study notes on vertebrates?

The study material on vertebrates can be found by visiting the Vedantu website. These notes prepared by Vedantu’s team act as a reference guide for students who are preparing for their end-term examinations and also for NEET aspirants who want to get a stronger foundation of the many concepts that are taught in class 11 and 12 physics, chemistry, and biology. These notes that are prepared by Vedantu’s team or based on the latest curriculum set by the Central Board of secondary education, all notes are available for free and can be downloaded in a PDF format, the PDF format helps students to get a comprehensive understanding of the concept as we can refer to the notes any time they want once downloaded, they can study in an off-line environment which is extremely important in times of examinations.

3. Classify vertebrates.

There are various types of vertebrates, here is a classification of vertebrates-

Class -Mammalia

Mammals are warm-blooded and have a four-chambered heart, They give birth directly to the offspring, however, there are exceptions like  Echidna, echidna’s reproduced by laying eggs. The fertilization process in these vertebrates is internal, they possess mammary glands to feed younger ones.

Class - Aves

Aves mainly consists of birds as their characteristic feature is a feathered body and they consist of four limbs that enabled them to take flight.

Class - Amphibia

There are two types of amphibians called terrestrial and aquatic. The heart of amphibians is three-chambered and respiration takes place through both lungs and gills.

4. What are vertebrates? Give examples.

Vertebrates are known by various names, they are called Craniata or Vertebrata. Vertebrate consists of any animal that falls under the subphylum of the phylum Chordata. The main characteristic feature of vertebrates is that they have backbones, from which they derive their name, another feature of vertebrates is that they consist of a muscular system which is mainly of bilaterally paired masses and also a nervous system that is enclosed within the backbone. This subphylum is considered one of the best known-group. The main classes of this group are Agnatha, Chondrichthyes, amphibia, reptilia, aves, and mammals. The first vertebrates consisted of only a notochord and therefore they did not have the basic feature that is the vertebral column, vertebrates mainly have three pairs of sense organs - the nasal, otic, optic

5. What is the subphylum Vertebrata?

There is a diversity in the type of vertebrates that exist, here we mainly talk about animals that have backbones that come under the subphylum Vertebrata. Under this subphylum all the species, animals that consist of backbones, gills, a central nervous system, even in one of the phases of development are called subphylum Vertebrata, a few examples of subphylum Vertebrata are mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds.

6. List the General Characteristics of Vertebrates.

The primary characteristics of vertebrates are – the presence of a vertebral column, and a differentiated tubular brain. The body is also divided into tail and trunk regions.

7. How Many Classes of Vertebrates Exists? Name two Classes of Vertebrates.

There are a total of six classes of vertebrates. Mammals and birds are two classes of vertebrates.

8. What Main Characteristic is Shared by all Vertebrates?

As part of chordates, some features of vertebrates remain the same. These include the dorsal nerve cord, notochord, post-anal tail, and pharyngeal slits.

Competitive Exams after 12th Science