Advantages of Movement in Vertebrates

The most prominent characteristic of vertebrates is the presence of the backbone or the vertebral column made of vertebrae. This category of organisms includes fishes, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. Hence, movement in vertebrates encompasses the different forms of it, found across these diverse varieties of classes. Depending on the body structure, arrangement of bones, muscle type, and different types of vertebrates are capable of different types of movement in environments like water (fish), air (birds), and land (humans). These movements are instrumental in bringing about locomotion in the animals, that is, the movement from one place to another. Other factors like availability of food, predator response, environmental threats, mating instincts, etc. can also influence the movement in vertebrates. Movement is often characterized by external stimuli and habitat conditions of an organism.

Poikilothermic Vertebrates:
Movement in Fishes

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Fishes are water-dwelling organisms and their main form of movement is swimming. For this reason, they have a streamlined body like that of a boat, which makes their body least resistant to water current and thus makes it easier for them to move in the water. The forelimbs and the hind limbs of a fish are modified into fins that help them to swim as well as maintain balance. Their skeletons have thick muscles and the body is covered with scales. Moreover, the bones in the skeleton are usually thin and hollow. This together with their shape promotes the swerving movement of fishes in the water and also the forward movements involved in locomotion.

Movement in Amphibians

Amphibians can swim in water at shallow depths and can wriggle, crawl, hop, or walk on land. These animals have forelimbs and hind limbs. Many amphibians like toads and frogs have webbed feet that help in swimming.

Movement in Reptiles

In reptiles, movement may involve crawling, walking, swimming, or limbless movement like in snakes, and gliding. In lizards, all four limbs are used for crawling, while turtles use their flaps to swim. Snakes have an S-shaped movement on the ground due to their different type of skeletal system, whereas crocodiles have short sprawled-out limbs that are lifted slightly from the ground to walk. Limbless reptiles like snakes can use four types of movements which are: lateral undulation, rectilinear, concertina, and sidewinding.

Homoeothermic Vertebrates:
Movement in Birds

The primary type of movement in birds is flying although many other types of movements like hopping, walking, and swimming might be involved as well. Birds have a streamlined feather-covered body, wings, lungs with numerous air sacs, and hollow pneumatic bones. Their shape makes them aerodynamically resistant to air current and their wings along with light bodyweight and numerous air sacs give them the necessary buoyancy to stay afloat. The wings are modified versions of the forelimbs, while their hindlimbs get modified into claws. They have strong shoulder and chest bones, which connect powerful muscles that provide the tensile strength required for the flapping of wings during flight. The tail helps in changing directions and also acts as a break during aerial movements. Flightless birds like ostrich and kiwi use their hindlimbs for movements, whereas their forelimbs are modified into rudimentary wings.

Movement in Mammals

Mammals have forelimbs and hindlimbs. Depending on the habitat in which it has evolved, a mammal can employ different types of movement like walking, running, swimming, jumping, climbing, and even flying (in the case of flying mammals like bats). The choice of movement apart from flying depends a lot on the situation and a lot of complex environmental interactions. While lions, tigers, horses, cattle, and other carnivores or herbivores use both their forelimbs and hindlimbs for walking, higher primates like humans where bipedalism has evolved, the forelimbs are modified into hands and hindlimbs as legs. Mammalian movement is also influenced by migration, reproduction, scavenging, territoriality, hunting, escaping, foraging, and other factors. The skeleton and muscle coordination in both four-legged and bipedal organisms are brought forth by bone structures, length, joints, tendons, ligaments, muscle fibers, and cells.

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