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Portal:Animals

The Animals Portal

Animal diversity.png

Animals are multicellular eukaryotic organisms that form the biological kingdom Animalia. With few exceptions, animals consume organic material, breathe oxygen, are able to move, can reproduce sexually, and grow from a hollow sphere of cells, the blastula, during embryonic development. Over 1.5 million living animal species have been described—of which around 1 million are insects—but it has been estimated there are over 7 million animal species in total. Animals range in length from 8.5 millionths of a metre to 33.6 metres (110 ft). They have complex interactions with each other and their environments, forming intricate food webs. The kingdom Animalia includes humans, but in colloquial use the term animal often refers only to non-human animals. The study of non-human animals is known as zoology.

Most living animal species are in the Bilateria, a clade whose members have a bilaterally symmetric body plan. The Bilateria include the protostomes—in which many groups of invertebrates are found, such as nematodes, arthropods, and molluscs—and the deuterostomes, containing both the echinoderms as well as the chordates, the latter containing the vertebrates. Life forms interpreted as early animals were present in the Ediacaran biota of the late Precambrian. Many modern animal phyla became clearly established in the fossil record as marine species during the Cambrian explosion, which began around 542 million years ago. 6,331 groups of genes common to all living animals have been identified; these may have arisen from a single common ancestor that lived 650 million years ago.

Historically, Aristotle divided animals into those with blood and those without. Carl Linnaeus created the first hierarchical biological classification for animals in 1758 with his Systema Naturae, which Jean-Baptiste Lamarck expanded into 14 phyla by 1809. In 1874, Ernst Haeckel divided the animal kingdom into the multicellular Metazoa (synonymous for Animalia) and the Protozoa, single-celled organisms no longer considered animals. In modern times, the biological classification of animals relies on advanced techniques, such as molecular phylogenetics, which are effective at demonstrating the evolutionary relationships between animal taxa.

Humans make use of many other animal species, such as for food (including meat, milk, and eggs), for materials (such as leather and wool), and also as pets, and for transports, as working animals. Dogs have been used in hunting, while many terrestrial and aquatic animals were hunted for sports. Non-human animals have appeared in art from the earliest times and are featured in mythology and religion.

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Portrait of Linnaeus on a brown background with the word "Linne" in the top right corner

Carl Linnaeus ( 23 May 1707 – 10 January 1778) was a Swedish botanist, physician, and zoologist, who laid the foundations for the modern biological naming scheme of binomial nomenclature. He is known as the father of modern taxonomy, and is also considered one of the fathers of modern ecology. Linnaeus was born in the countryside of Småland, in southern Sweden. He received most of his higher education at Uppsala University, and began giving lectures in botany there in 1730. He lived abroad between 1735 and 1738, where he studied and also published a first edition of his Systema Naturae in the Netherlands. He then returned to Sweden, where he became professor of medicine and botany at Uppsala. In the 1740s, he was sent on several journeys through Sweden to find and classify plants and animals. In the 1750s and '60s, he continued to collect and classify animals, plants, and minerals, and published several volumes. At the time of his death, he was one of the most acclaimed scientists in Europe.

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Golden toad
Credit: Charles H. Smith, USFWS

The golden toad (Bufo periglenes) is an extinct species of true toad that was once abundant in a small region of high-altitude cloud-covered tropical forests, about 30 km2 (12 sq mi) in area, above the city of Monteverde, Costa Rica. The last reported sighting of a golden toad was on 15 May 1989. Its sudden extinction may have been caused by chytrid fungus and extensive habitat loss.

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When the fox dies, fowls do not mourn.

—Anonymous

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Photograph of the Javan rhinoceros in the London Zoo, 1884
The Javan rhinoceros is a member of the family Rhinocerotidae and one of five extant rhinoceroses. Its horn is usually less than 25 cm (10 inches), smaller than those of the other rhino species. Once the most widespread of Asian rhinoceroses, the Javan rhinoceros ranged from the islands of Java and Sumatra, throughout Southeast Asia, and into India and China. The species is critically endangered, with only one known population in the wild, and no individuals in captivity. It is possibly the rarest large mammal on earth, with a population of as few as 40 in Ujung Kulon National Park on Java in Indonesia. The decline of the Javan rhinoceros is attributed to poaching, primarily for their horns, which are highly valued in traditional Chinese medicine. The Javan rhino can live approximately 30–45 years in the wild. It historically inhabited lowland rain forest, wet grasslands and large floodplains. The Javan rhino is mostly solitary, except for courtship and offspring-rearing, though groups may occasionally congregate near wallows and salt licks. Aside from humans, adults have no predators in their range. Scientists and conservationists rarely study the animals directly due to their extreme rarity and the danger of interfering with such an endangered species. Researchers rely on camera traps and fecal samples to gauge health and behavior. Consequently, the Javan rhino is the least studied of all rhino species.

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