Animals: topic summary

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By John Davis

Our handy topic summaries can be used to support homework, as well as providing helpful collections of related resources for teachers to use in school or for parents to use for home learning.


All animals need three basic things to survive – air to breathe, water to drink and food to eat. Shelter and a safe place to rest and have young is also important. The animal kingdom is usually divided into vertebrates (with a backbone) like humans, other mammals and birds, and invertebrates (without backbones) like most insects, spiders and molluscs like snails. Vertebrates can also be put into groups: amphibians that live on land and in water (grass snake), reptiles that have scales and are cold blooded (alligator), birds that lay eggs (robin), fish that live in water (shark) and mammals that have hair and fur and produce babies (sheep). Some animals go through a number of complete changes as they grow. This is called a life cycle, for example, egg… caterpillar… pupa… butterfly.

Animals can also be grouped according to their eating habits and the senses they use to find food (sight, smell, sound etc.). Insectivores eat mainly insects (anteater), herbivores eat plants (cow), carnivores eat meat (lion) and omnivores eat plants and meat (badger). A food chain shows the related way in which animals find their food. All food chains begin with a plant although strictly speaking it’s the Sun because plants need the Sun’s energy to grow. A simple food chain might be Sun… plant… rabbit… fox. Basic foods like plants are called producers, the rabbit would be classed as prey and the fox as a predator. The work of naturalists like David Attenborough and animal behaviourists like Jane Goodall would enrich activities here.

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