Dictionary of Human Evolution and Biology

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Subphylum of the phylum Chordata. Vertebrates are characterized by the presence of an endoskeleton, including a protective segmented column of bone that surrounds the spinal cord, bilateral symmetry throughout life, a well-differentiated head that contains a brain, and internal organs. Bone, as a chemical substance, is unique to vertebrates. Among the vertebrates, primates belong to the Class Mammalia. In the past this group has been referred to as the Craniata.

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