INVERTEBRATES

About 95 percent of all animals are invertebrates—animals without bones—and many are tiny or even microscopic.

INVERTEBRATE GROUPS

Invertebrates include more than 30 different phyla (major groups) of animals. Some of the most important ones are shown here.

ECHINODERMS

6,000 species include starfish, sea urchins, and sea cucumbers.

CNIDARIANS

10,000 species include corals, sea anemones, and jellyfish.

SPONGES

10,000 species include tube sponges and glass sponges.

INSECTS

800,000 species include beetles, flies, and ants.

MOLLUSKS

70,000 species include slugs, snails, mussels, and squid.

ANNELID WORMS

9,000 species include earthworms and leeches.

HOW DO ANIMALS SURVIVE WITHOUT BONES?

Insects, crustaceans, and many other invertebrates have a hard outer case called an exoskeleton. This protects them against blows and predators, and keeps them from drying out. Slugs, leeches, and jellyfish have soft bodies and no exoskeleton. The pressure of fluids inside their bodies maintains their shape.

INSIDE A SEA URCHIN

Like most invertebrates, sea urchins have relatively complex internal organs. Food is broken down using five teeth contained in a central structure known as Aristotle’s lantern, before passing into the intestine.

DO INVERTEBRATES’ EXOSKELETONS GROW?

The hard exoskeletons of insects and creatures such as crabs do not grow with the rest of the body. As the animal grows, its exoskeleton gets too tight—so it sheds it from time to time. Underneath is a new, slightly bigger, and looser case. The animal pumps itself up with fluid before the case has time to harden.

Copyright © 2007 Dorling Kindersley