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Why are some of the world's largest animals vertebrates?
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Life on Earth comes in an astonishing number of forms, shapes and sizes. The evolutionary milestone of forming a notochord at least 530 mya marks the beginning of a new lineage. Not only does a notochord provided structural support to some of the earliest invertebrate chordates; it also acted as a site for muscle attachment and is the precursor for vertebral development.

 

Aside from being a crucial element that forms the strong spine you and I would need to stand upright; the development of a vertebra column also allows vertebrates to grow larger without needing to deal with issues that stemmed from having an exoskeleton. These include periodic vulnerability post-molting and a self-limiting factor that prevented parts of the body from growing too thick and too heavy during growth. According to the Square-cube law, any object that has been doubled in body size would have its mass and volume increased by a factor of eight, whereas its ability to support itself, as in the cross-sectional area, would have only increased by a factor of four. Although this rule also applies to the endoskeleton of vertebrates, a combination of bones, muscles and tendons working together has provided stronger structural integrity than what an exoskeleton alone is capable of offering.

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Kingdom: Animalia

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Disclaimer: Depending on the reference sources, as well as the techniques and approaches used by systematists to categorize different animal groups, the figures listed for each taxonomic rank could vary drastically. These disparities are especially apparent in larger phyla such as Nematoda, Chordata, Arthropoda, and Brachiopoda. Nonetheless, these data are compiled to the best of my knowledge using latest literature and leading taxonomic databases as of November 2020. If you have access to the latest taxonomic rank updates for specific phyla or would to point out any errors on this page, please do contact me so that I can add you as a contributor. Your input would be much appreciated.

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