List of animal phyla

List of animal phyla is a list of the major groups of animals usually classified as a phylum. Modern sources have been used: the list is different from that of Linnaeus or Cuvier. A list of this type may be arranged alphabetically; equally it might be arranged according to evolutionary relationships. No list will be completely satisfactory. Authorities differ in what they consider a phylum, and in the actual name of the phylum. Despite this, there is agreement on most phyla. Most modern surveys include groups above the phylum, based on evidence of common descent.

Differences of opinion about evolutionary relationships have been reduced by the use of molecular evolution and molecular clock research. These make use of protein amino acid sequences, and whole genome DNA sequence analysis. These modern techniques have led to changes and renaming of many higher categories. Classification based on traditional comparative anatomy had errors which needed to be corrected. For example, the old phylum Coelenterata, which had stood for almost two hundred years, was split down into two separate phyla, the Cnidaria and the Ctenophora.

The following list is based on evolutionary relationships:[1][2][3]



Major groups in large type.




Other Bilateria phyla



At least 21 phyla are exclusively aquatic, with several others in quasi-aquatic habitats on land. None are entirely terrestrial. This is testimony to the importance of water for life, and to the sea in particular. It is fairly certain that all phyla originated in the sea or, at any rate, in water. Most made their first showing in the Cambrian, or in the Ediacaran. Most of the soft-bodied phyla have left few fossils.

Phyla may be grouped according to evidence about their evolutionary relationships. The list above puts similar groups together.

This kind of megataxonomy is becoming more convincing as DNA sequence analysis proceeds through the phyla. Some entirely fossil groups are still placed where they are on anatomy and commonsense rather than hard molecular evidence. The trilobites are a good example. Their position in the Arthropoda is based on not much more than their bilateral symmetry and an exoskeleton. These groupings are discussed further in the references to this page.[1][2][16]

Sortable table

This table has the advantage of being sortable. The terminology differs in places from the above descriptions. Also, by listing living species only for most phyla, those with huge fossil records (like Bryozoa and Brachiopods) are lower in the order despite being important aquatic forms in the Palaeozoic era.

Phylum Meaning Common name Distinguishing characteristic Species described
Acanthocephala Thorny headed worms Thorny-headed worms Reversible spiny proboscis. Now usually included in Rotifera. approx. 756 extant (= living)
Acoelomorpha Without gut Acoels No mouth or alimentary canal (alimentary canal = digestive tract in digestive system)
Annelida Little ring Segmented worms Multiple circular segment 17,000+ extant
Arthropoda Jointed foot Arthropods Chitin exoskeleton 1,134,000+
Brachiopoda Arm foot Lamp shells Lophophore and pedicle 300-500 extant
Bryozoa Moss animals Moss animals, sea mats Lophophore, no pedicle, ciliated tentacles 5,000 extant
Chaetognatha Longhair jaw Arrow worms Chitinous spines either side of head, fins approx. 100 extant
Chordata With a cord Chordates Hollow dorsal nerve cord, notochord, pharyngeal slits, endostyle, post-anal tail approx. 100,000+
Cnidaria Stinging nettle Coelenterates Nematocysts (stinging cells) approx. 11,000
Ctenophora Comb bearer Comb jellies Eight "comb rows" of fused cilia approx. 100 extant
Cycliophora Wheel carrying Symbion Circular mouth surrounded by small cilia 3+
Echinodermata Spiny skin Echinoderms Fivefold radial symmetry in living forms, mesodermal calcified spines approx. 7,000 extant; approx. 13,000 extinct
Entoprocta Inside anus Goblet worm Anus inside ring of cilia approx. 150
Gastrotricha Hair stomach Meiofauna Two terminal adhesive tubes approx. 690
Gnathostomulida Jaw orifice Jaw worms approx. 100
Hemichordata Half cord Acorn worms, pterobranchs Stomochord in collar, pharyngeal slits approx. 100 extant
Kinorhyncha Motion snout Mud dragons Eleven segments, each with a dorsal plate approx. 150
Loricifera Corset bearer Brush heads Umbrella-like scales at each end approx. 122
Micrognathozoa Tiny jaw animals Accordion-like extensible thorax. Newly discovered; close to Rotifers. 1
Mollusca Soft Mollusks / molluscs Muscular foot and mantle round shell 112,000[24]
Nematoda Thread like Round worms Round cross section, keratin cuticle 80,000–1,000,000
Nematomorpha Thread form Horsehair worms approx. 320
Nemertea A sea nymph Ribbon worms approx. 1,200
Onychophora Claw bearer Velvet worms Legs tipped by chitinous claws approx. 200 extant
Orthonectida Straight swim Single layer of ciliated cells surrounding a mass of sex cells approx. 20
Phoronida Zeus's mistress Horseshoe worms U-shaped gut 11
Placozoa Plate animals 1
Platyhelminthes Flat worms Flat worms approx. 25,000[25]
Porifera* Pore bearer Sponges Perforated interior wall 5,000+ extant
Priapulida Little Priapus 16
Rhombozoa Lozenge animal Single axial cell form front to bak, surrounded by ciliated cells 75
Rotifera Wheel bearer Rotifers crown of cilia at front approx. 2,000
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
Total: 35 2,000,000+
Protostome Bilateria
Others (Radiata or Parazoa)

Groups formerly ranked as phyla

This list is to help when you read older literature which may use out-of-date terms.

Name as phylum Common name Current consensus
Aschelminthes Pseudocoelomates Divided into several pseudocoelomate phyla.
Craniata Subgroup of phylum Chordata; perhaps synonymous with Vertebrata.
Cephalochordata Lancelets Subphylum of phylum Chordata.
Cephalorhyncha Superphylum Scalidophora.
Coelenterata Divided into phyla Cnidaria and Ctenophora.
Echiura Spoon worms Class of phylum Annelida.
Enterepneusta Acorn worms Class of phylum Hemichordata.
Gephyra Peanut worms and spoon worms Divided into phyla Sipuncula and Echiura.
Mesozoa Mesozoans Divided into phyla Orthonectida and Rhombozoa.
Myxozoa Severely modified Cnidarians.
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.


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  9. Altenburger, Andreas; Rho, Hyun S.; Chang, Cheon Y.; Sørensen, Martin V. (December 2015). "Zelinkaderes yong sp. nov. from Korea – the first recording of Zelinkaderes (Kinorhyncha: Cyclorhagida) in Asia" . Zoological Studies. 54 (25): e25. doi:10.1186/s40555-014-0103-6 . PMC 6661445 . PMID 31966112 .
  10. "Species list of Kinorhyncha - Hiroshi Yamasaki website" . Retrieved 2018-09-20.
  11. Millionths of a metre
  12. Neves, Ricardo Cardoso; Reichert, Heinrich; Sørensen, Martin Vinther; Kristensen, Reinhardt Møbjerg (2016). "Systematics of phylum Loricifera: Identification keys of families, genera and species". Zoologischer Anzeiger. 265: 141–70. doi:10.1016/j.jcz.2016.06.002 .
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  15. Barnes
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  18. Johanna Taylor Cannon, Bruno Cossermelli Vellutini, Julian 3rd Smith, Fredrik Ronquist, Ulf Jondelius & Andreas Hejnol (2016). "Xenacoelomorpha is the sister group to Nephrozoa". Nature. 530 (7588): 89–93. doi:10.1038/nature16520 . PMID 26842059 .CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
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  22. Michael Eitel, Warren R. Francis, Frederique Varoqueaux, Jean Daraspe, Hans-Jurgen Osigus, Stefan Krebs, Sergio Vargas, Helmut Blum, Gray A. Williams, Bernd Schierwater & Gert Worheide (2018). "Comparative genomics and the nature of placozoan species". PLoS Biology. 16 (7): e2005359. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.2005359 . PMID 30063702 .CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  23. Cells of different types
  24. Feldkamp, S. (2002) Modern Biology. Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, USA. (pp. 725)
  25. Species Register. "Flatworms — Phylum Platyhelminthes" . Marine Discovery Centres. Retrieved 2007-04-09. Cite has empty unknown parameter: |coauthors= (help)

Categories: Animal phyla | Invertebrates | Lists of animals | Taxonomy | Groups of phyla | Glossaries

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