The Info List - Phylum

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In biology, a phylum (/ˈfaɪləm/; plural: phyla) is a level of classification or taxonomic rank below Kingdom and above Class. Traditionally, in botany the term division has been used instead of phylum, although the International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants accepts the terms as equivalent.[1][2][3] Depending on definitions, the animal kingdom Animalia
or Metazoa contains approximately 33 phyla, the plant kingdom Plantae
contains about 14, and the fungus kingdom Fungi
contains about 8 phyla. Current research in phylogenetics is uncovering the relationships between phyla, which are contained in larger clades, like Ecdysozoa
and Embryophyta.[citation needed]


1 General description and familiar examples

1.1 Definition based on genetic relation 1.2 Definition based on body plan

2 Known phyla

2.1 Animal phyla 2.2 Plant
phyla (divisions) 2.3 Fungal divisions 2.4 Protista
phyla (divisions) 2.5 Bacterial phyla/divisions 2.6 Archaeal phyla/division/kingdoms

3 See also 4 Notes 5 References 6 External links

General description and familiar examples[edit] The term phylum was coined in 1866 by Ernst Haeckel
Ernst Haeckel
from the Greek phylon (φῦλον, "race, stock"), related to phyle (φυλή, "tribe, clan").[4] In plant taxonomy, August W. Eichler
August W. Eichler
(1883) classified plants into five groups named divisions, a term that remains in use today for groups of plants, algae and fungi.[1][5] The definitions of zoological phyla have changed from their origins in the six Linnaean classes and the four embranchements of Georges Cuvier.[6] Informally, phyla can be thought of as groupings of organisms based on general specialization of body plan.[7] At its most basic, a phylum can be defined in two ways: as a group of organisms with a certain degree of morphological or developmental similarity (the phenetic definition), or a group of organisms with a certain degree of evolutionary relatedness (the phylogenetic definition).[8] Attempting to define a level of the Linnean hierarchy without referring to (evolutionary) relatedness is unsatisfactory, but a phenetic definition is useful when addressing questions of a morphological nature—such as how successful different body plans were.[citation needed] Definition based on genetic relation[edit] The most important objective measure in the above definitions is the "certain degree" that defines how different organisms need to be to be members of different phyla. The minimal requirement is that all organisms in a phylum should be clearly more closely related to one another than to any other group.[8] Even this is problematic because the requirement depends on knowledge of organisms' relationships: as more data become available, particularly from molecular studies, we are better able to determine the relationships between groups. So phyla can be merged or split if it becomes apparent that they are related to one another or not. For example, the bearded worms were described as a new phylum (the Pogonophora) in the middle of the 20th century, but molecular work almost half a century later found them to be a group of annelids, so the phyla were merged (the bearded worms are now an annelid family).[9] On the other hand, the highly parasitic phylum Mesozoa
was divided into two phyla ( Orthonectida
and Rhombozoa) when it was discovered the Orthonectida
are probably deuterostomes and the Rhombozoa
protostomes.[10] This changeability of phyla has led some biologists to call for the concept of a phylum to be abandoned in favour of cladistics, a method in which groups are placed on a "family tree" without any formal ranking of group size.[8] Definition based on body plan[edit] A definition of a phylum based on body plan has been proposed by paleontologists Graham Budd and Sören Jensen (as Haeckel had done a century earlier). The definition was posited because extinct organisms are hardest to classify: they can be offshoots that diverged from a phylum's line before the characters that define the modern phylum were all acquired. By Budd and Jensen's definition, a phylum is defined by a set of characters shared by all its living representatives. This approach brings some small problems—for instance, ancestral characters common to most members of a phylum may have been lost by some members. Also, this definition is based on an arbitrary point of time: the present. However, as it is character based, it is easy to apply to the fossil record. A greater problem is that it relies on a subjective decision about which groups of organisms should be considered as phyla. The approach is useful because it makes it easy to classify extinct organisms as "stem groups" to the phyla with which they bear the most resemblance, based only on the taxonomically important similarities.[8] However, proving that a fossil belongs to the crown group of a phylum is difficult, as it must display a character unique to a sub-set of the crown group.[clarification needed][8] Furthermore, organisms in the stem group of a phylum can possess the "body plan" of the phylum without all the characteristics necessary to fall within it.[clarification needed] This weakens the idea that each of the phyla represents a distinct body plan.[11] A classification using this definition may be strongly affected by the chance survival of rare groups, which can make a phylum much more diverse than it would be otherwise[clarification needed]. Representatives of many modern phyla did not appear until long after the Cambrian.[clarification needed][12] Known phyla[edit] Animal phyla[edit]

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Protostome Bilateria



Others (Radiata or Parazoa)

Phylum Meaning Common name Distinguishing characteristic Species

Acanthocephala Thorny head Thorny-headed worms[13]:278 Reversible spiny proboscis that bears many rows of hooked spines 7003110000000000000♠approx. 1,100

Annelida Little ring[13]:306 Annelids Multiple circular segment 7004170000000000000♠17,000+ extant

Arthropoda Jointed foot Arthropods Segmented bodies and jointed limbs, with Chitin
exoskeleton 7006120000000000000♠1,200,000+ extant; 20,000+ extinct

Brachiopoda Arm foot[13]:336 Lampshells[13]:336 Lophophore
and pedicle 7002300000000000000♠300-500 extant; 12,000+ extinct

Bryozoa Moss
animals Moss
animals, sea mats, ectoprocts[13]:332 Lophophore, no pedicle, ciliated tentacles, anus outside ring of cilia 7003500000000000000♠5,000 extant

Chaetognatha Longhair jaw Arrow worms[13]:342 Chitinous spines either side of head, fins 7002100000000000000♠approx. 100 extant

Chordata With a cord Chordates Hollow dorsal nerve cord, notochord, pharyngeal slits, endostyle, post-anal tail 7004750000000000000♠approx. 75,000+

Cnidaria Stinging nettle Cnidarians Nematocysts
(stinging cells) 7004110000000000000♠approx. 11,000

Ctenophora Comb bearer Comb jellies[13]:256 Eight "comb rows" of fused cilia 7002100000000000000♠approx. 100-150 extant

Cycliophora Wheel carrying Symbion Circular mouth surrounded by small cilia, sac-like bodies 7000300000000000000♠3+

Echinodermata Spiny skin Echinoderms[13]:348 Fivefold radial symmetry in living forms, mesodermal calcified spines 7003700000000000000♠approx. 7,000 extant; approx. 13,000 extinct

Entoprocta Inside anus[13]:292 Goblet worms Anus
inside ring of cilia 7002150000000000000♠approx. 150

Gastrotricha Hairy stomach[13]:288 Gastrotrich worms Two terminal adhesive tubes 7002690000000000000♠approx. 690

Gnathostomulida Jaw orifice Jaw worms[13]:260

7002100000000000000♠approx. 100

Hemichordata Half cord[13]:344 Acorn worms, hemichordates Stomochord in collar, pharyngeal slits 7002130000000000000♠approx. 130 extant

Kinorhyncha Motion snout Mud dragons Eleven segments, each with a dorsal plate 7002150000000000000♠approx. 150

Loricifera Corset bearer Brush heads Umbrella-like scales at each end 7002122000000000000♠approx. 122

Micrognathozoa Tiny jaw animals Limnognathia Accordion-like extensible thorax 7000100000000000000♠1

Mollusca Soft[13]:320 Mollusks / molluscs Muscular foot and mantle round shell 7004900000000000000♠90,000+ extant; 80,000+ extinct[14]

Nematoda Thread like Round worms, thread worms[13]:274 Round cross section, keratin cuticle 7004250000000000000♠25,000–1,000,000[15][16]

Nematomorpha Thread form[13]:276 Horsehair worms, Gordian worms[13]:276

7002320000000000000♠approx. 320

Nemertea A sea nymph[13]:270 Ribbon worms, Rhynchocoela[13]:270

7003120000000000000♠approx. 1,200

Onychophora Claw bearer Velvet worms[13]:328 Legs tipped by chitinous claws 7002200000000000000♠approx. 200 extant

Orthonectida Straight swimming[13]:268 Orthonectids[13]:268 Single layer of ciliated cells surrounding a mass of sex cells 7001260000000000000♠approx. 26

Phoronida Zeus's mistress Horseshoe worms U-shaped gut 7001110000000000000♠11

Placozoa Plate animals Trichoplaxes[13]:242 Differentiated top and bottom surfaces, two ciliated cell layers, amoeboid fiber cells in between 7000100000000000000♠1

Platyhelminthes Flat worm[13]:262 Flatworms[13]:262

7004250000000000000♠approx. 25,000[17]

* Pore bearer Sponges[13]:246 Perforated interior wall 7003770000000000000♠7,700 extant

Priapulida Little Priapus Penis worms

7001200000000000000♠approx. 20

Rhombozoa Lozenge animal Rhombozoans[13]:264 Single anteroposterior axial cell surrounded by ciliated cells 7002100000000000000♠100+

Rotifera Wheel bearer Rotifers[13]:282 Anterior crown of cilia 7003200000000000000♠approx. 2,000

Sipuncula Small tube Peanut worms[13]:310 Mouth surrounded by invertible tentacles 7002144000000000000♠144–320

Tardigrada Slow step Water bears, moss piglets[13]:324 Four-segmented body and head 7003100000000000000♠1,000+

Xenacoelomorpha Strange form without gut — Ciliated deuterostome 7002400000000000000♠400+

Total: 33


phyla (divisions)[edit] Main article: Plant The kingdom Plantae
is defined in various ways by different biologists (see Current definitions of Plantae). All definitions include the living embryophytes (land plants), to which may be added the two green algae divisions, Chlorophyta
and Charophyta, to form the clade Viridiplantae. The table below follows the influential (though contentious) Cavalier-Smith system in equating "Plantae" with Archaeplastida,[18] a group containing Viridiplantae
and the algal Rhodophyta
and Glaucophyta
divisions. The definition and classification of plants at the division level also varies from source to source, and has changed progressively in recent years. Thus some sources place horsetails in division Arthrophyta and ferns in division Pteridophyta,[19] while others place them both in Pteridophyta, as shown below. The division Pinophyta
may be used for all gymnosperms (i.e. including cycads, ginkgos and gnetophytes),[20] or for conifers alone as below. Since the first publication of the APG system in 1998, which proposed a classification of angiosperms up to the level of orders, many sources have preferred to treat ranks higher than orders as informal clades. Where formal ranks have been provided, the traditional divisions listed below have been reduced to a very much lower level, e.g. subclasses.[21]

Land plants Viridiplantae

Green algae

Other algae (Biliphyta)[18]

Division Meaning Common name Distinguishing characteristics Species

Anthocerotophyta[22] Anthoceros-like plant Hornworts Horn-shaped sporophytes, no vascular system 7002100000000000000♠100-300+

Bryophyta[23] Bryum-like plant, moss plant Mosses Persistent unbranched sporophytes, no vascular system 7004120000000000000♠approx. 12,000

Charophyta Chara-like plant Charophytes

7003100000000000000♠approx. 1,000

Chlorophyta Yellow-green plant[13]:200 Chlorophytes

7003700000000000000♠approx. 7,000

Cycadophyta[24] Cycas-like plant, palm-like plant Cycads Seeds, crown of compound leaves 7002100000000000000♠approx. 100-200

Ginkgophyta[25] Ginkgo-like plant Ginkgo, maidenhair tree Seeds not protected by fruit (single living species) 7000100000000000000♠only 1 extant; 50+ extinct

Glaucophyta Blue-green plant Glaucophytes


Gnetophyta[26] Gnetum-like plant Gnetophytes Seeds and woody vascular system with vessels 7001700000000000000♠approx. 70

Lycopodiophyta,[20] Lycophyta[27]

Lycopodium-like plant Wolf plant

Clubmosses & spikemosses Microphyll
leaves, vascular system 7003129000000000000♠1,290 extant

Magnoliophyta Magnolia-like plant Flowering plants, angiosperms Flowers and fruit, vascular system with vessels 7005300000000000000♠300,000

Marchantiophyta,[28] Hepatophyta[23]

Marchantia-like plant Liver plant

Liverworts Ephemeral unbranched sporophytes, no vascular system 7003900000000000000♠approx. 9,000

Pinophyta,[20] Coniferophyta[29]

Pinus-like plant Cone-bearing plant

Conifers Cones containing seeds and wood composed of tracheids 7002629000000000000♠629 extant

Pteridophyta[citation needed] Pteris-like plant, fern plant Ferns & horsetails Prothallus
gametophytes, vascular system 7003900000000000000♠approx. 9,000 (not including lycophytes)

Rhodophyta Rose plant Red algae

7003700000000000000♠approx. 7,000

Total: 14

Fungal divisions[edit] Main article: Fungi

Division Meaning Common name Distinguishing characteristics

Ascomycota Bladder fungus[13]:396 Ascomycetes,[13]:396 sac fungi

Basidiomycota Small base fungus[13]:402 Basidiomycetes[13]:402

Blastocladiomycota Offshoot branch fungus[30] Blastoclads

Chytridiomycota Little cooking pot fungus[31] Chytrids

Glomeromycota Ball of yarn fungus[13]:394 Glomeromycetes, AM fungi[13]:394

Microsporidia Small seeds[32] Microsporans[13]:390

Neocallimastigomycota New beautiful whip fungus[33] Neocallimastigomycetes

Zygomycota Pair fungus[13]:392 Zygomycetes[13]:392

Total: 8

is generally included in kingdom Fungi, though its exact relations remain uncertain,[34] and it is considered a protozoan by the International Society of Protistologists[35] (see Protista, below). Molecular analysis of Zygomycota
has found it to be polyphyletic (its members do not share an immediate ancestor),[36] which is considered undesirable by many biologists. Accordingly, there is a proposal to abolish the Zygomycota
phylum. Its members would be divided between phylum Glomeromycota
and four new subphyla incertae sedis (of uncertain placement): Entomophthoromycotina, Kickxellomycotina, Mucoromycotina, and Zoopagomycotina.[34] Protista
phyla (divisions)[edit] Main article: Protista
taxonomy Kingdom Protista
(or Protoctista) is included in the traditional five- or six-kingdom model, where it can be defined as containing all eukaryotes that are not plants, animals, or fungi.[13]:120 Protista
is a polyphyletic taxon[37] (it includes groups not directly related to one another), which is less acceptable to present-day biologists than in the past. Proposals have been made to divide it among several new kingdoms, such as Protozoa
and Chromista in the Cavalier-Smith system.[38] Protist taxonomy has long been unstable,[39] with different approaches and definitions resulting in many competing classification schemes. The phyla listed here are used for Chromista and Protozoa
by the Catalogue of Life,[40] adapted from the system used by the International Society of Protistologists.[35]



Phylum/Division Meaning Common name Distinguishing characteristics Example

Amoebozoa Amorphous animal Amoebas


Bigyra Two ring


Choanozoa Funnel animal

Ciliophora Cilia
bearer Ciliates



Euglenozoa True eye animal


Foraminifera Hole bearers Forams Complex shells with one or more chambers Forams


Loukozoa Groove animal



Microsporidia Small spore

Myzozoa Suckling animal


Slime molds

Ochrophyta Yellow plant Diatoms


Oomycota Egg fungus[13]:184 Oomycetes


Radiozoa Ray animal Radiolarians



Total: 20

The Catalogue of Life
includes Rhodophyta
and Glaucophyta
in kingdom Plantae,[40] but other systems consider these phyla part of Protista.[41] Bacterial phyla/divisions[edit] Main article: Bacterial phyla Currently there are 29 phyla accepted by List of Prokaryotic names with Standing in Nomenclature (LPSN)[42]

Acidobacteria, phenotipically diverse and mostly uncultured Actinobacteria, High-G+C Gram positive species Aquificae, only 14 thermophilic genera, deep branching Armatimonadetes Bacteroidetes Caldiserica, formerly candidate division OP5, Caldisericum exile is the sole representative Chlamydiae, only 6 genera Chlorobi, only 7 genera, green sulphur bacteria Chloroflexi, green non-sulphur bacteria Chrysiogenetes, only 3 genera (Chrysiogenes arsenatis, Desulfurispira natronophila, Desulfurispirillum alkaliphilum) Cyanobacteria, also known as the blue-green algae Deferribacteres Deinococcus-Thermus, Deinococcus radiodurans and Thermus aquaticus are "commonly known" species of this phyla Dictyoglomi Elusimicrobia, formerly candidate division Thermite Group 1 Fibrobacteres Firmicutes, Low-G+C Gram positive species, such as the spore-formers Bacilli
(aerobic) and Clostridia
(anaerobic) Fusobacteria Gemmatimonadetes Lentisphaerae, formerly clade VadinBE97 Nitrospira Planctomycetes Proteobacteria, the most known phyla, containing species such as Escherichia coli
Escherichia coli
or Pseudomonas aeruginosa Spirochaetes, species include Borrelia burgdorferi, which causes Lyme disease Synergistetes Tenericutes, alternatively class Mollicutes
in phylum Firmicutes (notable genus: Mycoplasma) Thermodesulfobacteria Thermotogae, deep branching Verrucomicrobia

Archaeal phyla/division/kingdoms[edit] Currently there are 5 phyla accepted by List of Prokaryotic names with Standing in Nomenclature (LPSN).[42]

Crenarchaeota, second most common archaeal phylum Euryarchaeota, most common archaeal phylum Korarchaeota Nanoarchaeota, ultra-small symbiotes, single known species Thaumarchaeota

See also[edit]

Biology portal

Cladistics Phylogenetics Systematics Taxonomy



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External links[edit]

Look up Phylum
in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.

Are phyla "real"? Is there really a well-defined "number of animal phyla" extant and in the fossil record? Major Phyla Of Animals

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Taxonomic ranks

Domain/Superkingdom Kingdom Subkingdom Infrakingdom/Branch

Superphylum/Superdivision Phylum/Division Subphylum Infraphylum Microphylum

Superclass Class Subclass Infraclass Parvclass

Legion Cohort

Magnorder Superorder Order Suborder Infraorder Parvorder

Section (zoo.) Superfamily Family Subfamily

Supertribe Tribe Subtribe

Genus Subgenus Section (bot.) Series (bot.)

Species Subspecies Variety Form

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