Do you know what an arachnid is? Cephalopod? What about an onychophore? On this page I will briefly explain what all the labels mean, including the ones that aren't actually any kind of animal. I want the labels to be a useful way of navigating the site, so I'll try to keep their numbers down to a minimum. You won't find an exhaustive list of the classification of all known life here, just some basic catergories of the stuff featured on Real Monstrosities.

Let's begin!

We'll start with animals (Latin for with soul), basically defined by being composed of numerous cells, most of them with a nucleus inside. They can move when they feel like it and eat stuff. Let's look specifically at invertebrates, animals with no backbones. Some 95% of all animals have no backbone, so we'll have to seperate them out.


Cnidarian (Greek - nettle) - This group includes jellyfish, sea anemones and coral. They are radially symmetrical, meaning they have a top and bottom but no front or back. So, rather like a cake or pizza, they can be upside down but not the wrong way around (assuming the cake doesn't have Happy Birthday written on it). They're named after their cnidocytes, stinging cells they use to catch prey. All cnidarians have these, and no other creature does. They are all aquatic, and mostly marine.


Comb Jelly also known as Ctenophores (Greek - comb carrier) - A fairly small group of soft-bodied, marine carnivores. They are sometimes confused with jellyfish but are actually quite different. They swim using rows of hair-like cilia called combs and often use a sticky tentacle or two to capture plankton.


Annelid (French - ringed ones) -  Worms! Annelids are the segmented worms. Their bodies are usually divided into segments that are visible from the outside. On the inside each segment will have the same organs repeating over and over again, though they'll share a single blood and nervous system. They have a wide range of habits and diets and may live on land, lake or sea. 


Mollusc (Latin - soft) - An incredibly diverse group, this one. They all have a mantle, a kind of muscular wall that covers their guts, and their nervous system are all organized in a similar way.

Cephalopod (Greek - head feet) - Everyone knows cephalopods! The group includes (the plural of squid is) squid, (the plural of cuttlefish is) cuttlefish and (the plural of octopus is... octopi? Octopuses? Octo...cats?) octopises. Er... yeh. They all have numerous arms and some also have tentacles, and they all live in the oceans all over the world.

 Gastropod (Greek - stomach feet) - Slugs, snails and limpets, they comprise 80% of all molluscs and are found on land and in both fresh and marine waters.
 Bivalves (Latin - two valves, or something like "double doors") - Includes clams, oysters and mussels. They get their name from having a shell made of two halves. Most of them are filter feeders, some can swim, dig or jump! They can be found in marine and freshwater.


Echinoderm (Greek - spiny skin) - Includes oddities like starfish, sea urchins and sea cucumbers. They have no backbone, but they do have an internal skeleton made up of bony ossicles. They also have lots and lots of tiny little tube feet. They are found throughout the oceans of the world.


Arthropods (Greek - jointed feet) - Perhaps the most successful animal life in the world. They have exoskeletons, segmented bodies and jointed legs, arms, antennae or whatever other sticky-out bits.

Arachnid (Greek - spider) - Not only spiders but also scorpions, ticks, mites and spider-like creatures such as harvestmen and camel spiders. What they have in common is 8 legs and no wings, and two other paired appendages. One pair is used for feeding, the other can look like huge legs, little legs or scorpion pincers  Their bodies are seperated into two parts, a cephalothorax and an abdomen and while most are terrestrial, some can be found in freshwater or marine environments.

Crustacean (Latin - having a shell or crust) - Crabs, lobsters, shrimp and, strangely enough, barnacles. Their defining feature is legs that split into two parts and having numerous larval stages, one of which is called nauplius. 8 legs and two claws, 12 legs for walking and 12 for feeding, crustacea are diverse in that regard. The majority of them are aquatic but some crabs and of course woodlice, live on land.

Insect (Latin - cut into sections) - Insects have 6 legs, but there are some other 6 legged arthropods that aren't insects. The whole of them are called hexapods (Greek - six legs). Three pairs of legs is a unique feature! They are divided into a head (mouth parts; sensory organs), thorax (legs and wings) and an abdomen (digestive and reproductive organs). They mostly live on land and are the most numerous of all the arthropods.

 Myriapod (Greek - 10,000 legs) - This group includes millipedes, centipedes and a couple others. None of them actually have 10,000 legs, none even reach 1,000 and some have less than 10, but they all have quite a few.
 Pycogonid (Greek - thick knees) - These are the Sea Spiders. They are strange marine creatures, usually with 8 long legs and tiny bodies. The body is so small they actually have some of their organs in the legs! Very strange...
 Xiphosura (Greek - sword tail) - Aside from the Horseshoe crabs, these have entirely died out. They are marine creatures with eight legs and a large shield covering the whole body.


Add a backbone and we come to the vertebrates.

Cartilaginous Fish are the Sharks, Skates, Rays and Chimaera. They have skeletons made of cartilage rather than bone and lack a swim bladder, using a large, oily liver for buoyancy instead.

Bony Fish are aquatic, abundant in both fresh and saltwater environments. They have scales, two pairs of fins and a bunch of other more lonesome ones. They are mostly cold blooded and breathe in the water via gills.

Amphibians are cold blooded, smooth skinned animals that go through metamorphosis from water breathing young, to air breathing adults.

Reptiles can be aquatic or terrestrial but either way, they breathe air. They have scales, are cold blooded and lay eggs with tough outer shells.

Birds are warm blooded and breathe air, they have feathers, wings and a beak but no teeth. Most can fly and they also lay eggs with tough outer shells.

Mammals are also warm blooded air breathers. They usually have fur, but they always have a neocortex part of the brain and females produce milk to feed their young. Most have teeth and almost all of them give birth to live young.


Plants are largely unable to move, gaining most of their energy from sunlight and photosynthesis. A lot of them are important features of beautiful pictures, breath-taking art and awe inspiring landscapes. That's nice, but useless for this site. Monstrous plants certainly do exist though, and it's a joy to find them!


Other Group - Everything else. Loads and loads of them. Check it out and see!


Other labels

Ancient - because living fossils and the like so often carry with them strange, primitive characteristics. Slightly shambolic and utterly subjective label but I think it has some interest. I think...

Deep Sea - simply because deep sea weirdness is great!

Multi Monster - just for fun really!