Animal Form and Function

Body Plans

Illustration A shows an asymmetrical sponge with a tube-like body and a growth off to one side. Illustration B shows a sea anemone with a tube-like, radial symmetrical body. Tentacles grow from the top of the tube. Three vertical planes arranged 120 degrees apart dissect the body. The half of the body on one side of each plane is a mirror image of the body on the other side. Illustration C shows a goat with a bilaterally symmetrical body. A plane runs from front to back through the middle of the goat, dissecting the body into left and right halves, which are mirror images of each other. The top part of the goat is defined as dorsal, and the bottom part is defined as ventral. The front of the goat is defined as anterior, and the back is defined as posterior.
Animals exhibit different types of body symmetry. The sponge is asymmetrical, the sea anemone has radial symmetry, and the goat has bilateral symmetry.

Animal body plans follow set patterns related to symmetry. They are asymmetrical, radial, or bilateral in form as illustrated in Figure. Asymmetrical animals are animals with no pattern or symmetry; an example of an asymmetrical animal is a sponge. Radial symmetry, as illustrated in Figure, describes when an animal has an up-and-down orientation: any plane cut along its longitudinal axis through the organism produces equal halves, but not a definite right or left side. This plan is found mostly in aquatic animals, especially organisms that attach themselves to a base, like a rock or a boat, and extract their food from the surrounding water as it flows around the organism. Bilateral symmetry is illustrated in the same figure by a goat. The goat also has an upper and lower component to it, but a plane cut from front to back separates the animal into definite right and left sides. Additional terms used when describing positions in the body are anterior (front), posterior (rear), dorsal (toward the back), and ventral (toward the stomach). Bilateral symmetry is found in both land-based and aquatic animals; it enables a high level of mobility.

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