Portal:Animals

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Animals are multicellular eukaryotic organisms that form the biological kingdom Animalia. With few exceptions, animals consume organic material, breathe oxygen, are able to move, reproduce sexually, and grow from a hollow sphere of cells, the blastula, during embryonic development. Over 1.5 million living animal species have been described—of which around 1 million are insects—but it has been estimated there are over 7 million animal species in total. Animals range in length from 8.5 millionths of a metre to 33.6 metres (110 ft) and have complex interactions with each other and their environments, forming intricate food webs. The study of animals is called zoology.

Most living animal species are in the Bilateria, a clade whose members have a bilaterally symmetric body plan. The Bilateria include the protostomes—in which many groups of invertebrates are found, such as nematodes, arthropods, and molluscs—and the deuterostomes, containing the echinoderms and chordates (including the vertebrates). Life forms interpreted as early animals were present in the Ediacaran biota of the late Precambrian. Many modern animal phyla became clearly established in the fossil record as marine species during the Cambrian explosion which began around 542 million years ago. 6,331 groups of genes common to all living animals have been identified; these may have arisen from a single common ancestor that lived 650 million years ago.

Aristotle divided animals into those with blood and those without. Carl Linnaeus created the first hierarchical biological classification for animals in 1758 with his Systema Naturae, which Jean-Baptiste Lamarck expanded into 14 phyla by 1809. In 1874, Ernst Haeckel divided the animal kingdom into the multicellular Metazoa (now synonymous with Animalia) and the Protozoa, single-celled organisms no longer considered animals. In modern times, the biological classification of animals relies on advanced techniques, such as molecular phylogenetics, which are effective at demonstrating the evolutionary relationships between animal taxa.

Humans make use of many other animal species for food, including meat, milk, and eggs; for materials, such as leather and wool; as pets; and as working animals for power and transport. Dogs have been used in hunting, while many terrestrial and aquatic animals are hunted for sport. Non human animals have appeared in art from the earliest times and are featured in mythology and religion.

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Marcus Ward Lyon, Jr, sitting

Marcus Ward Lyon, Jr. (1875–1942) was an American mammalogist, bacteriologist, and pathologist. Born into a military family, he demonstrated an early interest in zoology by collecting local wildlife around his father's army posts. He graduated from Brown University in 1897, and continued his studies at George Washington University while working part-time at the United States National Museum. He received his Ph.D. in 1913. Lyon published many papers on mammalogy, formally describing six species, three genera, and one family. In 1919, he and his wife Martha moved to South Bend, Indiana, to join a newly opened clinic. He began to publish medical studies too, but continued his work in mammalogy, with a particular focus on the local fauna of Indiana. He published more than 160 papers during his career. Lyon acquired the rank of major in the Medical Reserve Corps during World War I, and was appointed president of the American Society of Mammalogists from 1931 to 1932. He was a member of Sigma Xi, the Society of American Bacteriologists, the Indiana Academy of Science, and the Biological Society of Washington. Lyon became a conservationist later in life.

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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...


Portrait of Linnaeus

  • ...that Carolus Linnaeus' (portrait pictured) research on classification led to objections and rebukes from religious authorities?
  • ...that Lampreys are called "nine-eyed eels" (i.e., per side) from a counting of their seven external gill slits on a side with one eye and the nostril?


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