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In biology, a phylum (/ˈfləm/; plural: phyla) is a taxonomic rank below kingdom and above class. Traditionally, in botany the term division was used instead of "phylum", although from 1993 the International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants accepted the designation "phylum". Depending on definitions, the kingdom Animalia contains approximately 35 phyla, Plantae contains about 12, and Fungi contains around 7. Current research in phylogenetics is uncovering the relationships between phyla, which are contained in larger clades, like Ecdysozoa and Embryophyta.

The definitions of zoological phyla have changed from their origins in the six Linnaean classes and the four "embranchements" of Georges Cuvier.Haeckel introduced the term phylum, based on the Greek word phylon ('tribe' or 'stock'). In plant taxonomy, Eichler (1883) classified plants into five groups, named divisions.

Informally, phyla can be thought of as grouping organisms based on general specialization of body plan. 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). 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.

Protostome Bilateria
Others (Radiata or Parazoa)
Phylum Meaning Common name Distinguishing characteristic Species described
Acanthocephala Thorny head Thorny-headed worms Reversible spiny proboscis that bears many rows of hooked spines approx. 1,100
Annelida Little ring Annelids Multiple circular segment 17,000+ extant
Arthropoda Jointed foot Arthropods Segmented bodies and jointed limbs, with Chitin exoskeleton 1,134,000+
Brachiopoda Arm foot Lampshells Lophophore and pedicle 300-500 extant
Bryozoa Moss animals Moss animals, sea mats, ectoprocts Lophophore, no pedicle, ciliated tentacles, anus outside ring of cilia 5,000 extant
Chaetognatha Longhair jaw Arrow worms Chitinous spines either side of head, fins approx. 100 extant
Chordata With a cord Chordates Hollow dorsal nerve cord, , pharyngeal slits, endostyle, post-anal tail approx. 100,000+
Cnidaria Stinging nettle Cnidarians (stinging cells) approx. 11,000
Ctenophora Comb bearer Comb jellies Eight "comb rows" of fused cilia approx. 100 extant
Cycliophora Wheel carrying Symbion Circular mouth surrounded by small cilia, sac-like bodies 3+
Echinodermata Spiny skin Echinoderms Fivefold radial symmetry in living forms, mesodermal calcified spines approx. 7,000 extant; approx. 13,000 extinct
Entoprocta Inside anus Goblet worms Anus inside ring of cilia approx. 150
Gastrotricha Hairy stomach Gastrotrich worms Two terminal adhesive tubes approx. 690
Gnathostomulida Jaw orifice Jaw worms approx. 100
Hemichordata Half cord Hemichordates Stomochord in collar, pharyngeal slits approx. 100 extant
Kinorhyncha Motion snout Mud dragons Eleven segments, each with a dorsal plate approx. 150
Loricifera Corset bearer Brush heads Umbrella-like scales at each end approx. 122
Micrognathozoa Tiny jaw animals Limnognathia Accordion-like extensible thorax 1
Mollusca Soft Mollusks / molluscs Muscular foot and mantle round shell 112,000
Nematoda Thread like Round worms, thread worms Round cross section, keratin cuticle 25,000–1,000,000
Nematomorpha Thread form Horsehair worms, Gordian worms approx. 320
Nemertea A sea nymph Ribbon worms, Rhynchocoela approx. 1,200
Onychophora Claw bearer Velvet worms Legs tipped by chitinous claws approx. 200 extant
Orthonectida Straight swimming Orthonectids Single layer of ciliated cells surrounding a mass of sex cells approx. 20
Phoronida Zeus's mistress Horseshoe worms U-shaped gut 11
Placozoa Plate animals Trichoplaxes Differentiated top and bottom surfaces, two ciliated cell layers, amoeboid fiber cells in between 1
Platyhelminthes Flat worm Flatworms approx. 25,000
Porifera * Pore bearer Sponges Perforated interior wall 5,000+ extant
Priapulida Little Priapus Penis worms approx. 16
Rhombozoa Lozenge animal Rhombozoans Single anteroposterior axial cell surrounded by ciliated cells 75
Rotifera Wheel bearer Rotifers Anterior crown of cilia approx. 2,000
Sipuncula Small tube Peanut worms Mouth surrounded by invertible tentacles 144–320
Tardigrada Slow step Water bears, moss piglets Four-segmented body and head 1,000+
Xenacoelomorpha Strange form without gut Ciliated deuterostome 2
Total: 34 2,000,000+
Land plants Viridiplantae
Green algae
Other algae (Biliphyta)
Division Meaning Common name Distinguishing characteristics
Anthocerotophyta Anthoceros-like plant Hornworts Horn-shaped sporophytes, no vascular system
Bryophyta Bryum-like plant, moss plant Mosses Persistent unbranched sporophytes, no vascular system
Charophyta Chara-like plant Charophytes
Chlorophyta Yellow-green plant Chlorophytes
Cycadophyta Cycas-like plant, palm-like plant Cycads Seeds, crown of compound leaves
Ginkgophyta Ginkgo-like plant Ginkgo, maidenhair tree Seeds not protected by fruit (single living species)
Glaucophyta Blue-green plant Glaucophytes
Gnetophyta Gnetum-like plant Gnetophytes Seeds and woody vascular system with vessels


Lycopodium-like plant

Wolf plant

Clubmosses & spikemosses Microphyll leaves, vascular system
Magnoliophyta Magnolia-like plant Flowering plants, angiosperms Flowers and fruit, vascular system with vessels


Marchantia-like plant

Liver plant

Liverworts Ephemeral unbranched sporophytes, no vascular system


Pinus-like plant

Cone-bearing plant

Conifers Cones containing seeds and wood composed of tracheids
Pteridophyta Pteris-like plant, fern plant Ferns & horsetails Prothallus gametophytes, vascular system
Rhodophyta Rose plant Red algae
Total: 14
Division Meaning Common name Distinguishing characteristics
Ascomycota Bladder fungus Ascomycetes, sac fungi
Basidiomycota Small base fungus Basidiomycetes
Offshoot branch fungus Blastoclads
Chytridiomycota Little cooking pot fungus Chytrids
Glomeromycota Ball of yarn fungus Glomeromycetes, AM fungi
Microsporidia Small seeds Microsporans
Neocallimastigomycota New beautiful whip fungus Neocallimastigomycetes
Zygomycota Pair fungus Zygomycetes
Total: 8
Phylum/Division Meaning Common name Distinguishing characteristics Example
Amoebozoa Amoeba
Euglenozoa True eye animal
Foraminifera Hole bearers Forams Complex shells with one or more chambers Forams
Oomycota Egg fungus Oomycetes
Total: 20



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