What Is an Arthropod Activity

GOAL: To introduce the arthropods, with a focus on the major groups within this phylum and the basic characteristics associated with each group.

BACKGROUND: Arthropods are invertebrates that have an exoskeleton, a segmented body, and jointed appendages. The Phylum Arthropoda is separated into multiple sub-phyla including the extinct Subphylum Trilobitomorpha (trilobites); as well as the extant (or living) Subphylum Chelicerata (arachnids, sea spiders, horseshoe crabs, eurypterids), Subphylum Hexapoda (insects), Subphylum Myriapoda (centipedes and millipedes) and Subphylum Crustacea (crabs, lobsters, shrimp).The most recent hypothesized phylogenetic relationships among these groups can be seen in the phylogeny below:

Phylum Arthropoda


  • Place within each square a laminated card with a list of characteristics describing animals that belong in that square.

  • Invite participants to go through the bucket of animals on the floor and try to place animals in their appropriate squares.

  • When participants feel that they are done, allow them to flip the card over to see pictures of animals that should be represented in each square. Laminated cards also provide taxonomic information regarding each arthropod group.

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  • Ideally you would have live representatives of as many of the above groups as possible.

  • For the game, you will need the following:

    • Cards for each arthropod subphylum. Download cards (front and back) here: PowerPoint | PDF

    • 5 large squares outlined in white tape on the floor, each representing one of the arthropod subphyla.

    • Within the square representing the Subphylum Chelicerata, you will need two big squares outlined in blue, one representing the Class Meristomata (horseshoe crabs and eurypterids) and one representing the Class Arachnida.

    • A large tub with numerous plastic animal examples of all of the above groups. On the underside of each animal, place a dot of paint to match the color of the card to which it belongs (e.g. green dots on the bottom of insects, blue dots on the bottom of crustaceans, red dots on the bottom of myriapods, etc.). These colors are seen on the borders of the cards that go with the game and will enable participants to check their “answers”.

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