Park Life Blog

Wildlife Education: Animals With Backbones

Shelby Farms Park has more than 20 lakes and ponds, more than 40 miles of trails, and a variety of plant and animal species that call the Park "home". Today, let's learn about animals with backbones!

A variety of living things are classified as animals. However, only 5 major groups of animals have backbones. An animal that has a backbone and skeletal system is called a vertebrate.  Vertebrates are animals with backbones and skeletal systems. A backbone can also be called a spine, spinal column, or vertebral column. The individual bones that make up a backbone are called vertebrae. Can you locate the backbone in the model of this toad skeleton?


Insects do not have a backbone or internal skeleton. Instead, they have an exoskeleton which is a hard outer covering that protects their body. The 5 groups of vertebrates (animals that have a backbone) are fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals.

Invertebrates are animals that do not have a backbone. A spider is an invertebrate because it is an animal without a backbone. Spiders are classified as arachnids (not insects). As mentioned above, the 5 major groups of vertebrates are fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. A frog is an amphibian, so it has a backbone. A skink is a reptile, so it has a backbone. A buffalo is a mammal, so it also has a backbone.   

Nature Challenge – Take a nature walk, and find examples of vertebrates. Can you see or hear at least one example from each of the 5 groups of vertebrates?
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