AskDefine | Define vertebrate

Dictionary Definition

vertebrate adj : having a backbone or spinal column; "fishes and amphibians and reptiles and birds and mammals are verbetrate animals" [ant: invertebrate] n : animals having a bony or cartilaginous skeleton with a segmented spinal column and a large brain enclosed in a skull or cranium [syn: craniate]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. having a backbone


having a backbone
  • Breton: mellkeinek
  • Catalan: vertebrat
  • Dutch: gewerveld
  • Finnish: selkärankainen
  • French: vertébré
  • Indonesian: bertulang belakang, vertebrata
  • Interlingua: vertebrate
  • Italian: vertebrato
  • Japanese: 脊椎, せきつい
  • Lithuanian: stuburinis
  • Portuguese: vertebrado, vertebrada
  • Spanish: vertebrado
  • Walloon: cronzoxhî


  1. an animal having a backbone


an animal having a backbone
  • Breton: mellkeineg
  • Catalan: vertebrat
  • Czech: obratlovec
  • Danish: hvirveldyr
  • Dutch: gewervelde
  • Finnish: selkärankainen
  • French: vertébré
  • German: Wirbeltier
  • Icelandic: hryggleysingjar
  • Indonesian: vertebrata, hewan vertebrata, hewan bertulang belakang
  • Interlingua: vertebrato
  • Italian: vertebrato
  • Japanese: 脊椎動物, せきついどうぶつ
  • Lithuanian: stuburinis
  • Norwegian: virveldyr
  • Polish: kręgowiec
  • Portuguese: vertebrado
  • Spanish: vertebrado
  • Walloon: cronzoxhî



  1. Plural of vertebrato

Extensive Definition

Vertebrates are members of the subphylum Vertebrata, chordates with backbones or spinal columns. The grouping sometimes includes the hagfish, which have no vertebrae, but are genetically quite closely related to lampreys, which do have vertebrae. Vertebrata is the largest subphylum of chordates, and contains many familiar groups of large land animals. Vertebrates comprise cyclostomes, bony fish, sharks and rays, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, and birds. Extant vertebrates range in size from the carp species Paedocypris, at as little as 7.9 mm (0.3 inch), to the Blue Whale, at up to 33 m (110 ft).

Anatomy and morphology

One characteristic of the subphylum are that all members have muscular systems that mostly consist of paired masses, as well as a central nervous system which is partly located inside the backbone (if one is present). The defining characteristic of a vertebrate is considered the backbone or spinal cord, a brain case, and an internal skeleton, but the latter do not hold true for lampreys, and the former is arguably present in some other chordates. Rather, all vertebrates are most easily distinguished from all other chordates by having a clearly identifiable head, that is, sensory organs - especially eyes are concentrated at the fore end of the body and there is pronounced cephalization. Compare the lancelets which have a mouth but not a well-developed head, and have light-sensitive areas along their entire back.

Evolutionary history

Vertebrates originated about 500 million years ago during the Cambrian explosion, which is part of the Cambrian period. The earliest known vertebrate is Myllokunmingia. According to recent molecular analysis Myxini (hagfish) also belong to Vertebrates. Others consider them a sister group of Vertebrates in the common taxon of Craniata.

Fossil record

The earliest known fossil records of vertebrates are Myllokunmingia fengjiaoa and Haikouichthys ercaicunensis, dating somewhere between 513-542mya during the Early Cambrian. The fossils were discovered in Yunnan, China

Taxonomy and classification

Classification after Janvier (1981, 1997), Shu et al. (2003), and Benton (2004).
  • Superclass Tetrapoda (four-limbed vertebrates)


The word vertebrate derives from Latin vertebrātus (Pliny), meaning having joints. It is closely related to the word vertebra, which refers to any of the bones or segments of the spinal column.



  • Vertebrates: Comparative Anatomy, Function, Evolution
vertebrate in Old English (ca. 450-1100): Hweorfdēor
vertebrate in Arabic: فقاريات
vertebrate in Min Nan: Chek-chui tōng-bu̍t
vertebrate in Bosnian: Kičmenjaci
vertebrate in Breton: Vertebrata
vertebrate in Bulgarian: Гръбначни
vertebrate in Catalan: Vertebrat
vertebrate in Czech: Obratlovci
vertebrate in Welsh: Fertebrat
vertebrate in Danish: Hvirveldyr
vertebrate in German: Wirbeltiere
vertebrate in Estonian: Selgroogsed
vertebrate in Spanish: Vertebrata
vertebrate in Esperanto: Vertebruloj
vertebrate in Basque: Ornodun
vertebrate in Persian: مهره‌داران
vertebrate in French: Vertébrés
vertebrate in Western Frisian: Wringedier
vertebrate in Irish: Veirteabrach
vertebrate in Galician: Vertebrata
vertebrate in Korean: 척추동물
vertebrate in Croatian: Kralježnjaci
vertebrate in Indonesian: Vertebrata
vertebrate in Interlingua (International Auxiliary Language Association): Vertebrato
vertebrate in Icelandic: Hryggdýr
vertebrate in Italian: Vertebrata
vertebrate in Hebrew: בעלי חוליות
vertebrate in Javanese: Vertebrata
vertebrate in Georgian: ხერხემლიანები
vertebrate in Kurdish: Movikdar
vertebrate in Latin: Vertebrata
vertebrate in Latvian: Mugurkaulnieki
vertebrate in Lithuanian: Stuburiniai
vertebrate in Limburgan: Gewervelde diere
vertebrate in Lingala: Nyama ya mikúwa
vertebrate in Hungarian: Gerincesek
vertebrate in Macedonian: ‘Рбетници
vertebrate in Marathi: पृष्ठवंशी प्राणी
vertebrate in Malay (macrolanguage): Vertebrat
vertebrate in Dutch: Gewervelden
vertebrate in Japanese: 脊椎動物
vertebrate in Norwegian: Virveldyr
vertebrate in Norwegian Nynorsk: Virveldyr
vertebrate in Occitan (post 1500): Vertebrata
vertebrate in Polish: Kręgowce
vertebrate in Portuguese: Vertebrados
vertebrate in Romanian: Vertebrata
vertebrate in Quechua: Tulluyuq
vertebrate in Russian: Позвоночные
vertebrate in Sicilian: Vertebrata
vertebrate in Simple English: Vertebrate
vertebrate in Slovak: Stavovce
vertebrate in Slovenian: Vretenčarji
vertebrate in Silesian: Kryngowce
vertebrate in Serbian: Кичмењаци
vertebrate in Sundanese: Vertebrata
vertebrate in Finnish: Selkärankaiset
vertebrate in Swedish: Ryggradsdjur
vertebrate in Tagalog: Vertebrata
vertebrate in Tamil: முதுகெலும்பிகள்
vertebrate in Telugu: సకశేరుకాలు
vertebrate in Thai: สัตว์มีกระดูกสันหลัง
vertebrate in Vietnamese: Động vật có xương sống
vertebrate in Turkish: Omurgalılar
vertebrate in Ukrainian: Хребетні
vertebrate in Walloon: Cronzoxhî
vertebrate in Yiddish: ווערטייברעיטס
vertebrate in Samogitian: Stoborėnē
vertebrate in Chinese: 脊椎动物

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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