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In biological taxonomy, a 'phylum' plural: Φῦλα phyla) is a taxonomic rank at the level below kingdom and above class. "Phylum" is adopted from the Greek φυλαί phylai, the clan-based voting groups in Greek city-states. Phyla represent the largest generally accepted groupings of animals and other living things with certain evolutionary traits, although the phyla themselves may sometimes be grouped into superphyla (e.g. Ecdysozoa with eight phyla, including arthropods and roundworms; and Deuterostomia with the echinoderms, chordates, hemichordates and arrow worms). Informally, phyla can be thought of as grouping animals based on general body plan; this is morphological grouping. Thus despite the seemingly different external appearances of organisms, they are classified into phyla based on their internal organizations. For example, though seemingly divergent, spiders and crabs both belong to Arthropoda, whereas earthworms and tapeworms, similar in shape, are from Annelida and Platyhelminthes, respectively. Although the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature allows the use of the term "Phylum" in reference to plants, the term "Division" is almost always used by botanists.
The best known animal phyla are the Mollusca, Porifera, Cnidaria, Platyhelminthes, Nematoda, Annelida, Arthropoda, Echinodermata, and Chordata, the phylum to which humans belong. Although there are approximately 35 phyla, these nine include the majority of the species. Many phyla are exclusively marine, and only one phylum is entirely absent from the world's oceans: the Onychophora or velvet worms. The most recently discovered phylum is Cycliophora found in 1993; only three phyla were discovered in the last century.
The Cambrian explosion was a great flowering of life forms that occurred between roughly 530 and 520 million years ago; during this time organisms similar to, but not strictly members of, modern phyla existed; whilst some appear to be represented in the Ediacaran biota, it remains a matter of debate whether all phyla existed prior to the explosion. Over time the roles among different phyla have varied. For instance, during the Cambrian, the dominant megafauna, or large animals, were arthropods, whereas now the megafauna is dominated by vertebrates (chordata). The arthropods are still by far the most dominant phylum.
List of animal phyla
|Acanthocephala||Thorny head||Thorny-headed worms||Reversible spiny proboscis||about 750|
|Acoelomorpha||Without gut||Acoels||No mouth or alimentary canal|
|Annelida||Little ring||Segmented worms||Multiple circular segments||about 15,300 modern|
|Arthropoda||Jointed foot||Arthropods||Chitin exoskeleton||1,134,000+|
|Brachiopoda||Arm foot||Lamp shells||Lophophore and pedicle||between 300 and 500 extant|
|Bryozoa||Moss animals||Moss animals, sea mats||Lophophore, no pedicle, ciliated tentacles||about 5,000 living species|
|Chaetognatha||Longhair jaw||Arrow worms||Chitinous spines either side of head, fins||about 100 modern species|
|Chordata||Cord||Chordates||Hollow dorsal nervous chord||about 100,000+|
|Cnidaria||Stinging nettle||Coelenterates||Nematocysts (stinging cells)||about 11,000|
|Ctenophora||Comb bearer||Comb jellies||Eight "comb rows" of fused cilia||about 100 modern species|
|Cycliophora||Wheel carrying||Symbion||Circular mouth surrounded by small cilia||at least 3|
|Echinodermata||Spiny skin||Echinoderms||Five-fold radial symmetry, mesodermal calcified spines||about 7,000 living species and 13,000 extinct ones|
|Echiura||Spine tail||Spoon worms||Set of hooks at posterior end||about 140|
|Entoprocta||Inside anus||Goblet worm||Anus inside ring of cilia||about 150|
|Gastrotricha||Hair stomach||Meiofauna||Two terminal adhesive tubes||about 690|
|Gnathostomulida||Jaw orifice||Jaw worms||about 100|
|Hemichordata||Half cord||Acorn worms||Stomochord in collar||about 100 living species|
|Kinorhyncha||Motion snout||Mud dragons||Eleven segments, each with a dorsal plate||about 150|
|Loricifera||Corset bearer||Brush heads||Umbrella-like scales at each end||about 122|
|Mesozoa||Middle animals||Mesozoans||Somatoderm of ciliated cells surrounding reproductive cell(s)|
|Micrognathozoa||Tiny jaw animals||—||Accordion like extensible thorax||1|
|Mollusca||Thin shell||Mollusks / molluscs||Muscular foot and mantle round shell||112,000|
|Myxozoa||Slime animals||Polar capsules resembling nematocysts||13,000+|
|Nematoda||Thread like||Round worms||Round cross section, keratin cuticle||80 000 – 1 million|
|Nematomorpha||Thread form||Horsehair worms||about 320|
|Nemertea||A sea nymph||Ribbon worms||about 1200|
|Onychophora||Claw bearer||Velvet worms||Legs tipped by chitinous claws||about 200 modern|
|Orthonectida||Straight swim||about 20|
|Phoronida||Zeus' mistress||Horseshoe worms||U-shaped gut||20|
|Platyhelminthes||Flat worms||Flat worms||about 25,000|
|Porifera||Pore bearer||Sponges||Perforated interior wall||over 5,000 modern|
|Priapulida||Penis||Priapulid worms||Retractable proboscis surrounded by papillae||17|
|Rhombozoa||Lozenge animal||—||Single axial cell surrounded by ciliated cells||75|
|Rotifera||Wheel bearer||Rotifers||Anterior crown of cilia||about 2000|
|Sipuncula||Small tube||Peanut worms||Mouth surrounded by invertible tentacles||144–320|
|Tardigrada||Slow step||Water bears||Four segmented body and head||1,000+|
|Xenoturbellida||Strange flatworm||—||Ciliated deuterostome||2|
Groups formerly ranked as phyla
|Name as phylum||Common name||Current consensus|
|Craniata||—||Subgroup of phylum Chordata; perhaps synonymous with Vertebrata.|
|Cephalochordata||Lancelets||Subphylum of phylum Chordata|
|Enterepneusta||Acorn worms||Class of phylum Hemichordata.|
|Pentastomida||Tongue worms||Subclass of Maxillopoda of phylum Arthropoda.|
|Pogonophora||Beard worms||Part of family Siboglinidae of phylum Annelida.|
|Pterobranchia||—||Class of phylum Hemichordata.|
|Symplasma||Glass sponges||Class Hexactinellida of phylum Porifera.|
|Urochordata||Tunicates||Subphylum of phylum Chordata.|
|Vestimentifera||Vent worms||Part of family Siboglinidae of phylum Annelida.|
List of plant divisions
|Division||Meaning||Common name||Distinguishing characteristics|
|Anthocerotophyta||Flower-horn plants||Hornworts||Horn-shaped sporophytes, no vascular system|
|Bryophyta||Moss plants||Mosses||Persistent unbranched sporophytes, no vascular system|
|Marchantiophyta||Marchantia plants||Liverworts||Ephemeral unbranched sporophytes, no vascular system|
|Lycopodiophyta||Wolf foot plants||Clubmosses & Spikemosses||Microphyll leaves, vascular system|
|Pteridophyta||Fern plants||Ferns & Horsetails||Prothallus gametophytes, vascular system|
|Pteridospermatophyta||Fern with seeds plant||Seed ferns||Only known from fossils, mostly Devonian, ranking in dispute|
|Pinophyta||Sap/pitch plants||Conifers||Cones containing seeds|
|Cycadophyta||Palm plants||Cycads||Seeds, crown of compound leaves|
|Ginkgophyta||Ginkgo plants||Ginkgo, Maidenhair||Seeds not protected by fruit (single species)|
|Gnetophyta||Gnetophytes||Seeds and woody vascular system|
|Anthophyta||Flower plant||Flowering plants||Producing flowers and fruit (or close relatives)|
List of fungi divisions
|Phylum||Meaning||Common name||Distinguishing characteristics|
|Chytridiomycota||Little pot mushroom||Chytrids||Cellulose in cell walls, flagellated gametes|
|Deuteromycota||Second mushroom||Imperfect fungi||Only reproduce asexually|
|Zygomycota||Yoke mushroom||Zygomycetes||Blend gametangia to form a zygosporangium|
|Glomeromycota||Ball mushroom||None||Form arbuscular mycorrhizae with plants|
|Ascomycota||Bag/Wineskin Mushroom||Sac fungi||Produce spores in an 'ascus'|
|Basidiomycota||Basidium Mushroom||None||Produce spores from a 'basidium'|
- Valentine, James W. (2004). On the Origin of Phyla. Chicago: University Of Chicago Press. p. 7. 0226845486."Classifications of organisms in hierarchical systems were in use by the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. usually organisms were grouped according to their morphological similarities as perceived by those early workers, and those groups were then grouped according to their similarities, and so on, to form a hierarchy."
- Parker, Andrew (2003). In the blink of an eye: How vision kick-started the big bang of evolution. Sydney: Free Press. pp. 1–4. 0743257332."The job of an evolutionary biologist is to make sense of the conflicting diversity of form – there is not always a relationship between internal and external parts. Early in the history of the subject, it became obvious that internal organisations were generally more important to the higher classification of animals than are external shapes. The internal organisation puts general restrictions on how an animal can exchange gases, obtain nutrients and reproduce."
- "…when a new animal species is discovered, no matter how unusual, it can normally be classified into a known group of creatures with the same body plan or phylum. Although there are 1.5 million plus known species in the world, they can all be classified into 35 or so phyla. These include the chordates (eg the vertebrates such as man), molluscs (snails) and arthropods (jointed limbed e.g. insects). However, S.pandora was so unusual that it could not be classified into any of the existing phyla, and a new one was suggested called Cycliophora"  (URL accessed on July 5, 2006)
- Valentine, J.W. (1999-03-01). "Fossils, molecules and embryos: new perspectives on the Cambrian explosion". Development. 126: 851–859. Retrieved 2007-05-17. Unknown parameter
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- Budd, G.E. (2000). "A critical reappraisal of the fossil record of the bilaterian phyla". Biological Reviews. 75 (02): 253–295. doi:10.1017/S000632310000548X. Retrieved 2007-05-26. Unknown parameter
- "The Cambrian Explosion … The organisms range from the prokaryotic cyanobacteria to eukaryotic green and red algae, to sponges, brachiopods, priapulids, annelids, and many different arthropod groups, as well as echinoderms and possibly one of the first chordates."  (URL accessed on July 5, 2006)
- Feldkamp, S. (2002) Modern Biology. Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, USA. (pp. 725)
- Species Register. "Flatworms – Phylum Platyhelminthes". Marine Discovery Centres. Retrieved 2007-04-09.
- "Kingdon Plantae Tree of Life"
- Major Phyla Of Animals
- Are phyla "real"? Is there really a well-defined "number of animal phyla" extant and in the fossil record?
- American Heritage Dictionary: New Latin phylum, from Greek phūlon, class.
- Online Etymological Dictionary: from Gk. phylon "race, stock," related to phyle "tribe, clan," and phylein "bring forth" of physikos "pertaining to nature," from physis "nature"
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