In this activity students will find examples of different vertebrate groups. Vertebrates all belong to the kingdom Animalia and the phylum Chordata. They are a subphylum of chordates that all have a backbone. In this activity, students will create a chart that identifies examples of different vertebrate groups and lists the characteristics of each class. To extend this for more advanced students, have them identify animals from each class within a particular habitat.
Fish are technically split into separate classes: Agnatha (Jawless fish), Chondrichthyes (Cartilaginous fishes), Placodermi (Armored fishes) and Osteichthyes (Bony Fishes). For the purpose of this activity the classes, have been grouped together. Fish are a group of animals that live in the water and all have gills. They don’t have limbs like digits (e.g. fingers and toes). Most fish are cold-blooded although there are a few exceptions.
This group of animals spends part of their lives on water and land. They are cold-blooded, meaning they cannot regulate their body temperatures. Amphibians do not have scales; they have a skin which allows gases to go through it. Most amphibians have primitive lungs so they can also pass oxygen through their skin into their bloodstream. Most amphibians are metamorphic, meaning they will change their shape and form at some point in their lives, such as from a tadpole to an adult frog.
Reptiles, like amphibians, are nearly all cold-blooded. They are covered in scales and breathe with lungs. Almost all reptiles are oviparous, meaning they lay eggs. Most reptiles have a three chambered heart, with the exception of crocodiles. Most reptiles have four legs, but snakes and some lizards are an exception to this.
Mammals are warm-blooded animals, meaning they can regulate their body temperatures. This allows them to live in many different climates around the world and makes them extremely diverse. All mammals have some hair or fur at some point in their lives, even dolphins and whales! Mammals nurse their young with milk which they produce in mammary glands. All mammals have four chambered hearts. Most mammals are viviparous, meaning they give birth to live young rather than eggs. Monotremes, e.g. the platypus and echidnas, are the exception to this rule, as both these animals are oviparous.
Birds can regulate their internal body temperature like mammals. They are characterized by having a body covered in feathers and a beaked jaw. Most birds have evolved to fly, but there are some that have further evolved to be unable to fly like penguins and ratites. Birds lay hard shelled eggs.
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Create a chart that identifies and describes the different vertebrate classes and provides examples of different vertebrates within each class.
Grade Level 6-8
Difficulty Level 2 (Reinforcing / Developing)
Type of Assignment Individual or Group
(You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)
| Proficient |
| Emerging |
| Beginning |
All the categories are correctly identified.
Most of the categories are correctly identified.
Some of the categories are correctly identified.
There are three correct examples for each category, with images.
There are two correct examples for each category, with images.
There is one correct example for each category, with images.
Evidence of Effort
Work is well written and carefully thought out.
Work shows some evidence of effort.
Work shows little evidence of any effort.