This section contains information, facts, and worksheets on the wonderful animals of our planet.
Setting Earth apart from other planets in our solar system is its ability to support life. Spanning hundreds of millions of years, the Earth has played host to over nine million species of animal in every conceivable habitat. Today, over 1,5 million living animals have been identified and described, with new ones being added every day, while some sadly fall into extinction.
Belonging to the biological kingdom of Animalia, animals can be defined as multicellular eukaryotic organisms (more than one cell, with each cell containing a nucleus within a membrane) that breathe oxygen, consume organic material, are able to move, and reproduce sexually. As you can imagine, with all the different sizes and shapes; ways to breathe like gills or lungs; diet like plants or meat; ways to move like swimming, slithering, flying, crawling, running and hopping; body coverings like scales, feathers, fur, shells and skin; laying eggs or giving birth to live young; creatures being warm-blooded or cold, the animal kingdom is not only huge, but massively varied.
No matter where you find an animal – whether that’s the freezing cold of the Antarctic, the blistering Sahara desert, the sweltering tropics of the Amazon, the vast African savannah, to the darkest caves and deepest oceans, animals have evolved to be uniquely adapted to their environment, with each species having complex interactions with one another and playing an important role in the ecosystem and food chain they find themselves in.
Through zoology, the study of animals, we’ve come to learn about the smallest insects, smaller than a millimetre, to the largest blue whales at over 100 feet long. With so many animals to study, we’re still learning about many, which also means undoing human damage as a result of fear and misunderstanding. Today, we know that wolves and sharks are intelligent animals with complex social hierarchies and, while dangerous, are not monsters to be killed.
By learning about animals, we're able to enhance our own lives. Termites have taught us about architecture, horseshoe crabs may hold the secret to never being sick, gorillas and orangutans can help us understand our early origins, livestock like horses, cattle and sheep have provided us with textiles to keep warm, transport and food, fish have taught us about streamlined shapes, while birds and whales served as inspiration for mastering the skies and seas.
In every culture in the world, animals can be found at their heart as symbols of strength, fertility, power and even gods incarnate. It’s easy to forget that we people are animals too, but it’s important to remember that we’re part of the intricate web of life on Earth and it’s our responsibility to look after every single creature that inhabits it.
Learn more about fascinating animals from vertebrates to invertebrates, marine and land animals, mammals and reptiles in this section.