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Tree of Life

Animal Phyla in the Tree of Life

Using Formal Classification Terminology

Also see:
Simplified Tree of Life Suitable to Organize Fossil Record

Cambrian Explosion
Small Shelly Animals (Tommotian Fauna)


In biological taxonomy, a phylum (plural phyla) is a taxon in the rank below kingdom and above class. A Phylum represents the largest scientific grouping of life forms sharing evolutionary certain requirements of a common ancestor in evolution. Phyla can also be considered as a group sharing the same general body plan, which includes both the external appearance, but is more importantly dependent of the bodies internal organization.

There are 36 recognized animal phyla, of which but nine (Mollusca, Porifera, Cnidaria, Platyhelminthes, Nematoda, Annelida, Arthropoda, Echinodermata, and Chordata) contain the vast majority of described, extant species. Debate continues regarding whether the different phyla appeared on earth prior to the Cambrian Explosion some 544 million years ago that roughly speaking marks the time when life forms had become large enough and many had acquired hardened body parts, so that a findable fossil record could begin to accumulate. The absence of a Precambrian fossil record greatly worried Darwin. The late Precambiran and Cambrian are believed to be times when some life forms that would otherwise deserve the rank of phylum both evolved only to meet extinction without leaving descendents.

The taxonomic rank of phylum is normally used with specificity as if science truly knows the placement of life in the tree of life. Therefore, remember not to put too sharp of a point on the term. Consequently the number of phyla, both extant and extinct, as well as what group constitutes a phylum varies from author to author, and changes over time. Modern molecular science (phylogenetics) has helped much to clarify the evolutionary descendancy of life forms, but can not help much to resolve mysteries within the fossil record.

Body plan is one approach to defining phyla. Development of the animal body plan was (and is) controlled by large and complex gene regulatory networks. It follows that evolution of body plans corresponded to adpative changes in the architecture of these developmental gene regulatory networks. The many components of these networks evolve at different rates and in different ways, and are very much dependent on selection pressures from changing environments. It is often hypothsized that animal evolution established essentially all phylum-level body plans by the early Cambrian. If so, it follows that certain components of the networks that were essential became immune to change. These highly conserved network components may well have originated in the Precambrian.

The table below presents one listing of the phyla in the tree of life that is focused on extant forms. Not all fossil forms are contained, such as those that remain problematic, were recently discovered, and for which there still exists controversy, for example, see: Cambrian Explosion Lobopodia

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Extant Animal Phyla
Phylum
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Fossil Record
Contained Within
Subphyla or Classes Contained
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Subkingdom Eumetazoa
Superphylum Platyzoa
Classes: Archiacanthocephala, Eoacanthocephala, Palaeacanthocephala
some 750
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Subkingdom Eumetazoa
Classes: Acoela, Nemertodermatida
?
Annelida Cambrian (518 mya) to Present

Domain Eukaryota
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Classes: Polychaeta, Clitellata, Myzostomida, Archiannelida some 17000 extant
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Subkingdom Eumetazoa
Superphylum Ecdysozoa
Trilobitomorpha, Chelicerata, Myriapoda, Hexapoda, Crustacea more than 1.1 million
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Bryozoa Ordovician to Present Domain Eukaryota
Kingdom Animalia
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Superphylum Lophotrochozoa
Classes: Stenolaemata, Gymnolaemata, Phylactolaemata some 5000 extant
Chaetognatha Cambrian to Prsent Domain Eukaryota
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Classes: Archisagittoidea, Sagittoidea
Some 100 extant
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Superphylum Deuterostomia

Subphyla:Tunicata, Cephalochordata, Vertebrata More than 60,000
Cnidaria Precambrian (580 mya) to Present Domain Eukaryota
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Subphyla: Anthozoa, Medusozoa Some 11,000
Ctenophora Cambrian to Prsent Red Silhouette Republic Flight Congo the of Bag Retro Democratic Red wOzgqwSubkingdom Eumetazoa Classes:Tentaculata, Nuda Some 100
Cycliophora ? Domain Eukaryota
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Superphylum Platyzoa
Symbion species  3 or more
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Superphylum Deuterostomia
Subphyla: Homalozoa, Crinozoa, Asterozoa, Pelmatozoa, Blastozoa some 7,000 extant species and 13,000 extinct
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Subkingdom Metazoa
Superphylum Lophotrochozoa
Echiuroidea,
Heteromyota,
Xenopneusta
130
Entoprocta ?

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Gastrotricha ? Domain Eukaryota
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Superphylum Platyzoa
Orders: Macrodasyida,
Chaetonotida 
About 690  
Gnathostomulida ? Domain Eukaryota
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Superphylum Platyzoa
Orders: Filospermoidea, Bursovaginoidea
Some 100  
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Superphylum Deuterostomia
Classes: Enteropneusta, Graptolithina (extinct), Pterobranchia, Planctosphaeroidea
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Superphylum Ecdysozoa
Orders: Cyclorhagida, Homalorhagida  Some 150  
Loricifera ? Red Silhouette Republic Flight Congo the of Bag Retro Democratic Red wOzgqwWomen Small Bags for Vintage Girls YIMOJI Fashion Purple School Daypack Travel Casual PU Backpack Handbags Women Leather SwzUxqSHr Eight described genera Some 120
Micrognathozoa ? Domain Eukaryota
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One Genus: Limnognathia At least 1 
Mollusca  Cambrian to Prsent Red Silhouette Republic Flight Congo the of Bag Retro Democratic Red wOzgqwBackpack School Shoulder Bag Zipper Bag Fashion Unisex Double Bag School Red Solid Black Travel Bag dSqwAqZRISuperphylum: Lophotrochozoa

Classes: Aplacophora,
Bivalvia,
Caudofoveata,
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Cephalopoda,
Gastropoda,
Helcionelloida,
Monoplacophora,
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Polyplacophora,
Rostroconchia,
Scaphopoda 

Some 112,000  
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Classes: Adenophorea, Secernentea
Perhaps one million 
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Superphylum Ecdysozoa
Classes: Nectonematoida
Gordioidea 
About 300  
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Onychophora (Also see Lobopodia)   Red Silhouette Republic Flight Congo the of Bag Retro Democratic Red wOzgqwWomen Small Bags for Vintage Girls YIMOJI Fashion Purple School Daypack Travel Casual PU Backpack Handbags Women Leather SwzUxqSHr
Superphylum Ecdysozoa 
Extant families: Peripatidae, Peripatopsidae  Some 200 extant 
Orthonectida  Red Silhouette Republic Flight Congo the of Bag Retro Democratic Red wOzgqwWomen Small Bags for Vintage Girls YIMOJI Fashion Purple School Daypack Travel Casual PU Backpack Handbags Women Leather SwzUxqSHr  Some 20 species  About 20  
Phoronida  Putative Phoronids from Cambrian Red Silhouette Republic Flight Congo the of Bag Retro Democratic Red wOzgqwBackpack School Shoulder Bag Zipper Bag Fashion Unisex Double Bag School Red Solid Black Travel Bag dSqwAqZRISuperphylum Lophotrochozoa  Extant genera: Phoronis, Phoronopsis
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Some 20  
Placozoa  ? Red Silhouette Republic Flight Congo the of Bag Retro Democratic Red wOzgqwWomen Small Bags for Vintage Girls YIMOJI Fashion Purple School Daypack Travel Casual PU Backpack Handbags Women Leather SwzUxqSHr  One so far - putative sponge ancestor
Platyhelminthes  ? Domain Eukaryota
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Superphylum Platyzoa 
Classes: Monogenea, Trematoda, Cestoda, Turbellaria  Some 25,000  
Porifera  Ediacara (Precambrian) to Present  Domain Eukaryota
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Groups: Calcarea, Hexactinellida, Demospongiae  Some 5000 extant 
Priapulida  Cambrian to Present Domain Eukaryota
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Extinct Genera:Ancalagon, Anningvermis, Corynetis, Ottoia
Extant Classes: Priapulimorpha, Halicryptomorpha, Seticoronaria
Some 17  
 Rhombozoa   Domain Eukaryota
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 Rotifera Eocene to Present  Domain Eukaryota
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Superphylum Platyzoa
Classes: Monogononta, Digononta, Bdelloidea, Seisonidea   
Sipuncula  Cambrian to Present  Red Silhouette Republic Flight Congo the of Bag Retro Democratic Red wOzgqwBackpack School Shoulder Bag Zipper Bag Fashion Unisex Double Bag School Red Solid Black Travel Bag dSqwAqZRISuperphylum Lophotrochozoa  Classes: Phascolosomatidea, Sipunculidea, Sipunculiformes   
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Subkingdom Eumetazoa
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Superphylum Ecdysozoa 
Classes: Heterotardigrada, Mesotardigrada, Eutardigrada   
 Xenoturbellida Red Silhouette Republic Flight Congo the of Bag Retro Democratic Red wOzgqwSubkingdom Eumetazoa
Superphylum Deuterostomia 
?
 
 
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