Superphylum Deuterostomia

Phylum Chordata

Animals in the phylum Chordata share five key features that appear at some stage of their development: a notochord, a dorsal hollow nerve cord, pharyngeal slits, a post-anal tail, and an endostyle/thyroid gland that secretes iodinated hormones. In some groups, some of these traits are present only during embryonic development. In addition to containing vertebrate classes, the phylum Chordata contains two clades of “invertebrates”: Urochordata (tunicates, salps, and larvaceans) and Cephalochordata (lancelets). Most tunicates live on the ocean floor and are suspension feeders. Lancelets are suspension feeders that feed on phytoplankton and other microorganisms. The invertebrate chordates will be discussed more extensively in the following chapter.