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 árthron, "joint", and πούς pous (gen. podos), i.e. "foot" or "leg", which together mean "jointed leg"), and include the insects, arachnids, and crustaceans.
Arthropods are characterized by their jointed limbs and cuticles, which are mainly made of α-chitin; the cuticles of crustaceans are also biomineralized with calcium carbonate. The rigid cuticle inhibits growth, so arthropods replace it periodically by moulting. The arthropod body plan consists of repeated segments, each with a pair of appendages. Their versatility 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 animal species, some of which, unlike most animals, are very successful in dry environments. They range in size from microscopic plankton up to forms a few meters long. Arthropods' primary internal cavity is a hemocoel, which accommodates their internal organs, and through which their blood circulates; they have open circulatory systems. Like their exteriors, the internal organs of arthropods are generally built of repeated segments. Their nervous system is "ladder-like", with paired ventral nerve cords running through all segments and forming paired ganglia in each segment. Their heads are formed by fusion of varying numbers of segments, and their brains are formed by fusion of the ganglia of these segments and encircle the esophagus. The respiratory and excretory systems of arthropods vary, depending as much on their environment as on the subphylum to which they belong.