Animal Vocabulary

Although these words sound scientific, they are commonly used to describe animal families or behavior.

  • Herbivores are animals, such as deer, who eat plants.
  • Carnivores are flesh-eating animals, like lions.
  • Omnivores, such as bears and humans, eat both meat and plants.
  • Invertebrates are animals without backbones, such as worms and insects.
  • Vertebrates are animals with backbones. Reptiles, amphibians, birds, and mammals are all vertebrates.
  • Marsupials are families of mammals, such as kangaroos and opossums, whose females carry their young in an external pouch.
  • Monotremes are rare mammals, such as the platypus and echidna (or “spiny anteater”), that lay eggs.
  • Nocturnal animals, such as owls, are active at night.
  • Diurnal animals, such as squirrels, are awake during the day.
  • Pinnipeds are aquatic mammals with flippers, like seals and walruses.
  • Quadrupeds are animals with four feet, such as cows.
  • Bipeds, like humans and gorillas (and some dinosaurs!), walk upright on two legs.
  • Primates include humans and their closest mammalian relatives. They share flexible arms and legs, skilled fingers (and sometimes toes), and relatively big brains. The many species of apes, monkeys, and lemurs are among the primates.
  • Cetaceans are ocean mammals, including whales and dolphins.
  • Rodents, like squirrels and gerbils, have large front teeth for gnawing and cheek teeth for chewing.
  • Arachnids are arthropods, such as spiders, scorpions, mites, and ticks.

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