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Table of Contents. What Is a Vertebrate? Fishes Amphibians Reptiles Vertebrate History in Rocks. - What Is a Vertebrate?. Ancient Jawless Fish.

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Table of contents
Table of Contents

  • What Is a Vertebrate?

  • Fishes

  • Amphibians

  • Reptiles

  • Vertebrate History in Rocks

Ancient jawless fish

- What Is a Vertebrate?

Ancient Jawless Fish

  • Look backward in time, into an ocean 530 million years ago. There you see a strange-looking creature—a jawless fish—that is about as long as your index finger.

Chordate characteristics
Chordate Characteristics

  • Chordates belong to the phylum Chordata

  • Members of this phylum include vertebrates and invertebrates

  • 3 common characteristics: a notochord, nerve cord, and gill slits

  • A notochord is a flexible rod that runs down the back

  • A nerve cord serves as the connection between the brain and the nerves on which messages travel back and forth

  • All chordates have pharyngeal slits that either disappear before birth or function as gills for their entire lives.

Characteristics of chordates

- What Is a Vertebrate?

Characteristics of Chordates

  • This lancelet shows the characteristics of a chordate: a notochord, a nerve cord down its back, and gill slits.

Characteristics of vertebrates
Characteristics of Vertebrates

  • Vertebrates have backbones that are part of an internal skeleton (endoskeleton)

  • Vertebra include any of the bones or segments composing the spinal column, consisting typically of a cylindrical body that allows the spinal cord to pass through it

  • Vertebrae include all the bones that make up the backbone

  • Internal skeleton or endoskeleton protects the internal organs of the body, helps give the body shape, and gives muscles a place to attach

  • *Having an endoskeleton allows vertebrates to grow bigger than animals with exoskeletons

Table of contents

Quick Review:

What are the four major functions of animals?

Obtaining food & oxygen

Keeping conditions stable



Keeping conditions stable
Keeping Conditions Stable

  • Major groups of vertebrates control their body temperatures in one of 2 ways:

  • An ectotherm is an animal that does not produce much internal heat so their body temperature changes depending on the temperature of its environment (fish, amphibians, and reptiles)

  • An endotherm is an animal that regulates its own temperature by controlling the internal heat it produces (birds and mammals)

  • Endotherms body temperatures do not change much and this allows them to live in many different environments

Building vocabulary

Key Terms:




- What Is a Vertebrate?

Building Vocabulary

  • A definition states the meaning of a word or phrase by telling about its most important feature or function. After you read the section, reread the paragraphs that contain definitions of Key Terms. Use the information you have learned to write a definition of each Key Term in your own words.

Key Terms:



All members of this phylum are called chordates.

An ectotherm is an animal whose body does not produce much internal heat.


The phylum name Chordata comes from the notochord, a flexible rod that supports a chordate’s back.

The beaver is an example of an endotherm—an animal whose body regulates its own temperature by controlling the internal heat it produces.


You can see in Figure 2 that the backbone is formed by many similar bones called vertebrae.

End of section what is a vertebrate
End of Section:What Is a Vertebrate?


  • What is the name for a person who studies fishes?

  • Answer: Ichthyologist

Characteristics of fishes
Characteristics of Fishes

  • Fins are thin membranes stretched across a bony support that provides larger surface area for fishes to push against the water

  • Most fishes have external fertilization where female eggs are released outside the female’s body

  • In contrast, sharks and some other species have internal fertilization

  • Nervous/sense organs help fish to find food and avoid predators

Characteristics of fishes1

- Fishes

Characteristics of Fishes

  • Most fishes obtain oxygen through gills.

  • What are gills?

  • A gill is a respiratory organ found in many aquatic organisms that extracts dissolved oxygen from water

Table of contents

Three major groups of fish
Three Major Groups of Fish

  • Jawless Fish (no hinged jaw)

  • Cartilaginous Fish (more flexible than bone)

  • Bony Fish (majority of all fish species)

Class agnatha jawless fish
Class Agnatha (Jawless Fish)

  • Cartilagenous

  • Simplest and oldest known vertebrates

  • No Jaw

  • No scales

  • Scavengers or parasites

  • Lamprey & Hagfish

Class chondrichthyes cartilaginous fishes
Class Chondrichthyes (Cartilaginous Fishes)

  • Hinged jaw

  • Paired fins

  • Scales

  • Cartilaginous skeleton

  • Muscles attached to skin, not skeleton

  • Skates, Rays, and Sharks

Class osteichthyes bony fishes
Class Osteichthyes (Bony Fishes)

  • Largest group of fishes

  • Skeleton made of bone and cartilage

  • Hinged jaws

  • Paired fins

  • Hard, protective scales

  • Covered gills (operculum)

Bony fishes

- Fishes

Bony Fishes

  • A bony fish has jaws, scales, a pocket on each side of the head that holds the gills, and a skeleton made of hard bones.

Previewing visuals

- Fishes

Previewing Visuals

  • Before you read, preview Figure 12. Then write two questions that you have about the diagram in a graphic organizer like the one below. As you read, answer your questions.

Structure of a Fish

Q. What is a swim bladder?

A. A swim bladder is an internal, gas-filled sac that helps stabilize the fish at different depths in the water.

Q. What is the function of the tail fin?

A. It helps provide the power for swimming.

What is an amphibian
What is an Amphibian?

  • Vertebrates

  • Ectotherms

  • Both aquatic and terrestrial animals!

  • Two major groups:

  • Salamanders

  • Frogs and Toads

What is an amphibian1

- Amphibians

What Is an Amphibian?

  • During its metamorphosis from tadpole to adult, a frog’s body changes dramatically!

Living on land

- Amphibians

Living on Land

  • Many adult amphibians have lungs, a heart with three chambers, and a double-loop circulatory system.

  • The two upper chambers of the heart are called atria (atria is plural for atrium).

  • The ventricle is the lower chamber of the heart where oxygen-rich blood mixes with oxygen-poor blood.


- Amphibians


  • Make a cycle diagram like the one below that shows the different stages of a frog’s metamorphosis during its life cycle. Write each step of the process in a separate circle.

Frog Metamorphosis

Adult frog

Tail is absorbed.

Fertilized egg

Front legs develop.

Tadpole hatches.

Hind legs develop.

End of section amphibians
End of Section:Amphibians

What is a reptile
What is a Reptile?

  • A reptile is an ectothermic vertebrate with lungs and scaly skin

  • Reptiles include turtles, snakes, lizards, alligators & crocodiles

  • Ancestors of modern reptiles were first vertebrates to live completely outside of an aquatic environment

  • Land animals must be able to conserve water and the skin, kidneys, and eggs of reptiles have these adaptations

  • Kidneys are organs that filter wastes from the blood and excreted through urine.

  • Reptiles have internal fertilization and lay their eggs on land

  • An egg with a shell and internal membranes that keep the embryo moist is called an amniotic egg.

Adaptations for life on land

- Reptiles

Adaptations for Life on Land

  • The membranes and shell of an amniotic egg protect the developing embryo.

Characteristics of a lizard

- Reptiles

Characteristics of a Lizard

  • This lizard, a Jackson’s chameleon, has many adaptations that help

  • it survive in its

  • environment.

The sex ratio of newly hatched alligators

- Reptiles

The Sex Ratio of Newly Hatched Alligators

  • The temperature of the developing eggs of the American alligator affects the sex ratio of the young. (Sex ratio is the number of females compared with the number of males.)

The sex ratio of newly hatched alligators1


Reading Graphs:

At which temperature(s) did only females hatch?

- Reptiles

The Sex Ratio of Newly Hatched Alligators

The sex ratio of newly hatched alligators2

The warmer the incubation temperature, the greater the proportion of males.

Drawing Conclusions:

What effect does the temperature of developing eggs have on the sex of the baby alligators?

- Reptiles

The Sex Ratio of Newly Hatched Alligators

The sex ratio of newly hatched alligators3

According to the graph, out of the 50 alligators that were incubated at 31.7ºC, about 40 (or 80%) were males. So 80% of 100 eggs (80) could be expected to hatch as males.


If 100 eggs developed at 31.7ºC, about how many of the young would be male?

- Reptiles

The Sex Ratio of Newly Hatched Alligators

Extinct reptiles the dinosaurs

- Reptiles incubated at 31.7ºC, about 40 (or 80%) were males. So 80% of 100 eggs (80) could be expected to hatch as males.

Extinct Reptiles–The Dinosaurs

  • Dinosaurs were the earliest vertebrates that had legs positioned directly beneath their bodies.

Identifying main ideas

- Reptiles incubated at 31.7ºC, about 40 (or 80%) were males. So 80% of 100 eggs (80) could be expected to hatch as males.

Identifying Main Ideas

  • As you read the information under the heading “Adaptations for Life on Land,” write the main idea in a graphic organizer like the one below. Then write three supporting details that further explain the main idea.

Main Idea

Reptiles are adapted to conserve water.




Reptiles have a thick, scaly skin that prevents water loss.

Reptile eggs have a shell and membranes that keep them from drying out.

A reptile’s kidneys concentrate wastes before excreting them so that little water is lost.

Interpretation of fossils
Interpretation of Fossils incubated at 31.7ºC, about 40 (or 80%) were males. So 80% of 100 eggs (80) could be expected to hatch as males.

  • The pattern of vertebrate evolution is branching.

Graphic organizer
Graphic Organizer incubated at 31.7ºC, about 40 (or 80%) were males. So 80% of 100 eggs (80) could be expected to hatch as males.

Main Idea

The larvae of amphibians are adapted for life in water, and adult amphibians are adapted for life on land.




Larvae have tails for swimming; adults have legs for walking.

Larvae have gills; adults have lungs.

Larvae have one-loop circulatory systems and two-chambered hearts; adults have two-loop circulatory systems and three-chambered hearts.

End of section graphic organizer
End of Section: incubated at 31.7ºC, about 40 (or 80%) were males. So 80% of 100 eggs (80) could be expected to hatch as males.Graphic Organizer