Vertebrates are animals that are members of the subphylum Vertebrata, that are chordates (the group of vertebrates or a few closely related invertebrates) with spinal cords, vertebrae, and notochords. Vertebrates possess a series of nerves along their backs (dorsal side), which are supported and protected by backbones and a rod of cartilage called the notochord.

Vertebrates are the largest group of chordates, with currently about 58,000 species described, including fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals, primates, rodents and marsupials. Although vertebrates represent only approximately 5% of all animals, their size and mobility often allow them to dominate their environment and they are considered the most advanced organisms on earth.