The superclass Tetrapoda (Ancient Greek τετραπόδηs tetrapodēs, "four-footed"), or in semi-anglicized form the tetrapods, comprises the first four-limbed vertebrates and their descendants, including the living and extinct amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals.
While most species today are terrestrial, there is little evidence that any of the earliest tetrapods could move about on land, as their limbs could not have held their midsections off the ground and the known trackways do not indicate that they dragged their bellies around. Presumably, the tracks were made by animals bottom-walking in shallow water. Amphibians today generally remain semi-aquatic, living the first stage of their lives as fish-like tadpoles. Several groups of tetrapods, such as the snakes and cetaceans have lost some or all of their limbs. And many tetrapods have returned to partially aquatic or (in the case of cetaceans and sirenians) fully aquatic lives, throughout the history of the group. The first returns to an aquatic lifestyle may have occurred as early as the Carboniferous, for instance in the lepospondyl Microbrachis), whereas other returns occurred as recently as the Cenozoic, as in cetaceans, pinnipeds, and several lissamphibians.
The tetrapods evolved from the lobe-finned fishes about 395 million years ago in the Devonian. The specific aquatic ancestors of the tetrapods, and the process by which land colonization occurred, remain unclear, and are areas of active research and debate among palaeontologists at present.
In biology, an organism is any contiguous living system (such as animal, fungus, micro-organism, or plant). In at least some form, all types of organisms are capable of response to stimuli, reproduction, growth and development, and maintenance of homeostasis as a stable whole.
An organism may be either unicellular (a single cell) or, as in the case of humans, comprise many trillions of cells grouped into specialized tissues and organs. The term multicellular (many cells) describes any organism made up of more than one cell.
All organisms living on Earth are divided into the eukaryotes and prokaryotes based on the presence or absence of true nuclei in their cells. The prokaryotes represent two separate domains, the Bacteria and Archaea. Eukaryotic organisms are characterized by the presence of a membrane-bound cell nucleus, and contain additional membrane-bound compartmentalization called organelles (such as mitochondria in animals and plastids in plants, both generally considered to be derived from endosymbiotic bacteria). Fungi, animals and plants are examples of kingdoms of organisms that are eukaryotes.