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Biosphere Community
Kindom Animals

Animals all begin life similarly. A small swimming sperm fertilizes a larger egg. The fertilized egg repeatedly divides to form, in the initial stage of embryo development, a hollow sphere of cells - the animal blastula. This blastula is the defining trait of animal-hood. All animals begin as a sphere of cells. That includes all insects, all worms, all jellyfish, all birds, all lobsters, all sea urchins, all bats, all rock musicians, and on and on.

What are animals, anyway? In biology, animals share the following:

• Animals are multi-cellular (eucaryote cells), unlike bacteria (procaryotes), but like plants.

• They feed on others (heterotrophs), unlike plants, which feed themselves (autotrophs)

• In at least one life stage, animals can move spontaneously and show rapid muscular response to stimulation, unlike plants, which can move, but can't decide to move, and can't move rapidly.

This word “animal” can be confusing. There is a thinking problem called “nothing but…”

When a person says, “Human beings are animals,” people with the “nothing but” thinking problem hear “Human beings are nothing but animals.” This was not said.

People's concern, of course, is about the spirit or the soul. Saying we are animals is a description of our bodies, and says nothing about our intangible parts.

The ironic part of this confusion is this: our word “animal” derives from the Latin word “anima,” which in Latin means “soul.”

Sometimes, when people say “animal,” they mean just mammals, which are only one kind of animal, our kind, of course, the kind that feed their babies milk.

You know a lot about animals already, of course. We all know animal stories, many of us are lucky enough to have pets. We like stuffed animals; many adults still have one from childhood.

Animals have existed for a very long time, first in the ocean (marine animals), eventually on land (terrestrial animals).

Size: Many animals, most roundworms and all rotifers, for example, are microscopic is size. Most life on Earth is microscopic. See Bacteria, Protists. We humans tend to be aware only of the macrolife around us, big organisms, from ants to elephants.

Animal life takes an astounding variety of shapes. Each form has its beauties. We are all members of one community. For all our wonder-filled diversity, we share a common ancestry. Over time, we share the very atoms of our flesh. In diversity there is strength and flexibility.

Our Amazing Diversity of Form and Beauty

sea otter
green heron
polyp medusa stage
basket star skeleton
deep ocean fangfish
lubber grasshopper
a salp
great egret
sea snail
American toad
coral polyps feeding
red squirrel
great gray owl


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Explore Further in Biosphere

Biosphere: Introduction
Biosphere as Place: Introduction
Biosphere as Ocean: Life Zones
Biosphere as Ocean Floor: Benthic Biomes One
Biosphere as Ocean Floor: Benthic Biomes Two
Biosphere on Land: Terrestrial Biomes
Biosphere on Land: Anthropogenic Biomes
Biosphere as Process: Introduction
Biosphere Process: Floating Continents, Tectonic Plates
Biosphere Process: Photosynthesis
Biosphere Process: Life Helps Make Earth's Crust
Biosphere Process:
Rock Cycle--Marriage of Water and Rock
Biosphere Process: Marriage of Wind and Water
Biosphere Process: Gas Exchange
Biosphere as An Expression of Spirit
The Ecological Function of Art
The Earth Goddess
The Tree of Life
The Green Man
Earth Art
Biosphere as Community
Biosphere Microcosm: Bacteria and Archaea
The Procaryote Domain
Biosphere Microcosm: Germs
Biosphere Community: The Eucaryote Domain
Biosphere Community: Protists 1: Algae
  Biosphere Community: Protists 2: Protozoa
Biosphere Community: Plants: What's New?
Biosphere Community: Plant Diversity--Major Groups
Biosphere Community: Plant Defense
Biosphere Community: Plant Pollination
Biosphere Community: Plant Seed Dispersal
Biosphere Community: Kingdom Animals
Biosphere Community: Kingdom Fungi
Biosphere Community: Six Great Extinctions
Return to Ecology Index


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