The word vertebrate derives from Latin vertebratus (Pliny), meaning having joints. It is closely related to the word vertebra, which refers to any of the bones or segments of the spinal column.




An arthropod is an invertebrate animal having an exoskeleton (external skeleton), a segmented body, and jointed appendages. Arthropods are members of the Phylum Arthropoda (from Greek ἄρθρον arthron, "joint", and ποδός podos "foot", which together mean "jointed feet"), and include the insects, arachnids, crustaceans, and others. Arthropods are characterised by their jointed limbs and cuticles, which are mainly made of α-chitin; the cuticles of crustaceans are also biomineralised with calcium carbonate. The rigid cuticle inhibits growth, so arthropods replace it periodically by molting. The arthropod body plan consists of repeated segments, each with a pair of appendages. It is so versatile that they have been compared to Swiss Army knives, and it has enabled them to become the most species-rich members of all ecological guilds in most environments. They have over a million described species, making up more than 80% of all described living species, and are one of only two animal groups that are really successful in dry environments – the other being the amniotes. They range in size from microscopic plankton up to forms a few meters long.



The "roundworms" or "nematodes" (phylum Nematoda) are the most diverse phylum of pseudocoelomates, and one of the most diverse of all animals. Nematode species are very difficult to distinguish; over 28,000 have been described, of which over 16,000 are parasitic. It has been estimated that the total number of described and undescribed roundworms might be more than 500,000. Unlike cnidarians or flatworms, roundworms have a digestive system that is like a tube with openings at both ends.

Nematodes have successfully adapted to nearly every ecological niche from marine to fresh water, from the polar regions to the tropics, as well as the highest to the lowest of elevations. They are ubiquitous in freshwater, marine, and terrestrial environments, where they often outnumber other animals in both individual and species counts, and are found in locations as diverse as Antarctica and oceanic trenches. They represent, for example, 90% of all life on the seafloor of the Earth. Their many parasitic forms include pathogens in most plants and animals (including humans.) Some nematodes can undergo cryptobiosis.




The majority of phytopathogenic fungi belongs to the Ascomycetes and the Basidiomycetes.

The fungi reproduce both sexually and asexually via the production of spores. These spores may be spread long distances by air or water, or they may be soil born. Many soil-born spores, normally zoospores are capable of living saprotrophically, carrying out the first part of their lifecycle in the soil.

Fungal diseases can be controlled through the use of fungicides in agriculture, however new races of fungi often evolve that are resistant to various fungicides.



Most bacteria that are associated with plants are actually saprotrophic, and do no harm to the plant itself. However, a small number, around 100 species, are able to cause disease. Bacterial diseases are much more prevalent in sub-tropical and tropical regions of the world.

Most plant pathogenic bacteria are rod shaped (bacilli).




There are many types of plant viruses, and some are even asymptomatic. Normally plant viruses only cause a loss of yield. Therefore, it is not economically viable to try to control them, the exception being when they infect perennial species, such as fruit trees.

Most plant viruses have small, single stranded RNA genomes. These genomes may only encode 3 or 4 proteins: a replicase, a coat protein, a movement protein to allow cell to cell movement though plasmodesmata and sometimes a protein that allows transmission by a vector.

Plant viruses must be transmitted from plant to plant by a vector. This is often by an insect (for example, aphids), but some fungi, nematodes and protozoa have been shown to be viral vectors.





A weed in a general sense is a plant that is considered by the user of the term to be a nuisance, and normally applied to unwanted plants in human-made settings such as gardens, lawns or agricultural areas, but also in parks, woods and other natural areas. More specifically, the term is often used to describe native or nonnative plants that grow and reproduce aggressively. Generally, a weed is a plant in an undesired place.

Weeds may be unwanted for a number of reasons: they might be unsightly, or crowd out or restrict light to more desirable plants or use limited nutrients from the soil. They can harbor and spread plant pathogens that infect and degrade the quality of crop or horticultural plants. Some weeds are a nuisance because they have thorns or prickles, some have chemicals that cause skin irritation or are hazardous if eaten, or have parts that come off and attach to fur or clothes.

The term weed in its general sense is a subjective one, without any classification value, since a "weed" is not a weed when growing where it belongs or is wanted. Indeed, a number of "weeds" have been used in gardens or other cultivated-plant settings.

Some weeds are parasitic. Parasitic plants such as mistletoe and dodder are included in the study of phytopathology. Dodder, for example, is used as a conduit for the transmission of viruses or virus-like agents from a host plant to either a plant that is not typically a host or for an agent that is not graft-transmissible