vertebrate

noun
ver·​te·​brate | \ ˈvər-tə-brət How to pronounce vertebrate (audio) , -ˌbrāt How to pronounce vertebrate (audio) \

Definition of vertebrate

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: any of a subphylum (Vertebrata) of chordates that comprises animals (such as mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fishes) typically having a bony or cartilaginous spinal column which replaces the notochord, a distinct head containing a brain which arises as an enlarged part of the nerve cord, and an internal usually bony skeleton and that includes some primitive forms (such as lampreys) in which the spinal column is absent and the notochord persists throughout life

vertebrate

adjective

Definition of vertebrate (Entry 2 of 2)

1a : having a spinal column
b : of or relating to the vertebrates
2 : organized or constructed in orderly or developed form

Examples of vertebrate in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun In death, mussels still play a role in the ecosystem, feeding muskrats, raccoons, and other riverside vertebrates. Marion Renault, Wired, "Freshwater Mussels Are Dying—Which Is the Likeliest Culprit?," 18 Apr. 2020 Such light pollution, which shines with an intensity and composition not found in nature, has been shown to disrupt the hormone production and metabolism of many vertebrate species, including fish—and humans. Chiara Eisner, Scientific American, "Arctic Exploitation May Harm Animals Large and Small," 5 Mar. 2020 To truly test that theory, more fossils are needed, says Lene Liebe Delsett, a vertebrate paleontologist at the University of Oslo who wasn’t involved in the study. Katherine J. Wu, Smithsonian Magazine, "215-Million-Year-Old, Sharp-Nosed Sea Creature Was Among the Last of Its Kind," 5 Mar. 2020 The few species of fish that can thrive in the Southern Ocean are specially equipped: icefish and Antarctic toothfish produce antifreeze in their blood, and icefish are the only vertebrates that lack hemoglobin, absorbing oxygen through their skin. Lucy Jakub, Harper's magazine, "A View to a Krill," 2 Mar. 2020 Given its complexity, this trait was long thought to be exclusive to a few cognitive A-listers, including humans and a handful of other vertebrates like rats and dolphins. Katherine J. Wu, Smithsonian Magazine, "Like Humans, Bumblebees May Create Mental Images in Their Brains," 21 Feb. 2020 Bioluminescence is in fact markedly absent from all terrestrial vertebrates and flowering plants. Quanta Magazine, "In the Deep, Clues to How Life Makes Light," 1 Dec. 2016 While cephalopods have many complex and elaborate features, they are thought to have evolved independently of the vertebrates. Courtney Linder, Popular Mechanics, "Team Uncovers Major New Truths About the Legendary Giant Squid," 16 Jan. 2020 There are an estimated 1 million feral camels in Australia, and the population is growing at a rate of 8% a year, PestSmart Connect, which provides information about invasive vertebrate pests in Australia, according to its website. Jordan Culver, USA TODAY, "Australian Aboriginal officials approve killing up to 10,000 feral camels," 8 Jan. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective But as animals became more complex, vertebrate species — including many amphibians, reptiles and even some fish, like sharks — turned to a less chancy strategy: internal fertilization. Quanta Magazine, "Egg Laying or Live Birth: How Evolution Chooses," 18 May 2020 There are a subset of these vertebrate predators that have evolved these bony fangs on the lower jaw, which aren’t true teeth. Sara Kiley Watson, Popular Science, "These spiky frog skulls look more like dinosaur fossils," 4 Apr. 2020 The pterosaur Nyctosaurus may have had the most efficient wings—and thus the longest continuous soaring flight—of any vertebrate animal ever. Michael B. Habib, Scientific American, "Pterosaurs Were Monsters of the Mesozoic Skies," 1 Oct. 2019 Their hands, for example, are probably the most specialized in all of the vertebrate world, with an immense fourth finger that supported the wing. Michael B. Habib, Scientific American, "Pterosaurs Were Monsters of the Mesozoic Skies," 1 Oct. 2019 Here are six examples of the complex, underlying elements of vertebrate bones, curated from the National Institute of Health’s online gallery. Popular Science, "These trippy images reveal the colorful inner lives of bones," 4 Feb. 2020 That was the biggest surprise, says Mike Benton, a palaeontologist at the University of Bristol, UK, who has documented changes in vertebrate diversity during that period. Ewen Callaway, Scientific American, "Supercomputer Scours Fossil Record for Earth’s Hidden Extinctions," 18 Jan. 2020 Underwater leviathans Freshwater ecosystems are generally less studied than their marine counterparts, despite being home to a third of all vertebrate species and nearly half of all fish species worldwide. Stefan Lovgren, National Geographic, "Earth’s largest freshwater creatures at risk of extinction," 8 Aug. 2019 The teeth were collected back in the 1970s, found in the Yukon’s Old Crow Basin—a place that has yielded over 50,000 vertebrate fossils representing more than 80 species. Riley Black, Smithsonian, "Prehistoric Hyena’s Teeth Show Bone-Crushing Carnivore Roamed the Arctic," 19 June 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'vertebrate.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of vertebrate

Noun

1826, in the meaning defined above

Adjective

1820, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for vertebrate

Noun

New Latin Vertebrata, from neuter plural of vertebratus

Adjective

New Latin vertebratus, from Latin, jointed, from vertebra

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Time Traveler for vertebrate

Time Traveler

The first known use of vertebrate was in 1820

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Statistics for vertebrate

Last Updated

10 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Vertebrate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/vertebrate. Accessed 26 May. 2020.

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More Definitions for vertebrate

vertebrate

noun
How to pronounce vertebrate (audio) How to pronounce vertebrate (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of vertebrate

biology : an animal that has a backbone

vertebrate

adjective
ver·​te·​brate | \ ˈvər-tə-brət How to pronounce vertebrate (audio) \

Kids Definition of vertebrate

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: having vertebrae or a backbone Mammals are vertebrate animals.

vertebrate

noun

Kids Definition of vertebrate (Entry 2 of 2)

: an animal (as a fish, amphibian, reptile, bird, or mammal) that has a backbone extending down the back of the body

vertebrate

adjective
ver·​te·​brate | \ ˈvərt-ə-brət How to pronounce vertebrate (audio) , -ˌbrāt How to pronounce vertebrate (audio) \

Medical Definition of vertebrate

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : having a spinal column
2 : of or relating to the subphylum Vertebrata

vertebrate

noun

Medical Definition of vertebrate (Entry 2 of 2)

: an animal of the subphylum Vertebrata

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