Chordate origin and evolution Chordates are the most diverse and complex phylum in the animal kingdom

. To date it comprises of 48000 recorded species although the actual number is thought to far exceed this number. Members of this phylum have true coelom which allows for the formation of internal organs. The phylum may be identified through five distinct characteristics. These are the notochord, dorsal tubular nerve curve cord, pharyngeal gill slits, endostyle and post-anal tail. Each of these features serves to distinguish chordates from other phyla. However not all these features are present in both adult and embryonic stages of the organism. The notochord is a stiffened flexible rod which allows for movement. This may eventually be replaced by the vertebral column. It is the first part of the skeleton to develop in the embryo. Present in all chordates the dorsal tubular nerve cord has its front end enlarged to form the brain. Pharyngeal gill slit functions as both a filter feeding mechanism and in gaseous exchange. While the endostyle originated as part of a feeding apparatus is confined to chordates. It functions as an endocrine gland. The post anal tail provides chordates with stability, is ideal for propulsion and plays a role in maintaining balance. Other characteristics of the phylum chordate are bilateral symmetry, a tube within a tube body plan, segmented muscles, cephalization, a ventral heart and endoskeleton. Chordates are a large group however they are closely related by their unique distinctive features. Over the years zoologists as well as biologists have wondered about the origin and evolution of chordate. It is this curiosity that later led some to postulating theories about chordate ancestry and evolution based on varying assumptions and notable similarities. These theories include: the annelid theory, the coelenterate theory, the echinoderm-hemichordate theory, as well as the cephalochordate and urochordate theory. In the annelid theory of chordate origin chordates are alleged to have evolved from an annelid ancestor. This theory was said to have come about due to several similarities

J Berrill compared the tadpole like larva of the urochordate which portrayed similar characteristics of a typical chordate.Fossils have been discovered in Burgess Shale in the British Columbia. dorsal hollow nerve cord sensory organs and pharyngeal gill slits. etc.respiratory pigment etc . The theory of chordate origin from echinoderm –hemichordates suggests that chordates.between annelids and chordates. echinoderms and hemichordates arose from a common ancestor. Annelids also have a double ventral nervous cord while chordates have single hollow dorsal ones. In the urochordate theory of origin W. Garstang and N. This theory has brought up a lot of skeptism as there are none of the five distinctive chordate characters in the annelids. These features included the notochord along with the segmented muscles. This is based on embryological and serogical evidences. The embryonic development and genetic make up of these three organisms seem to have a common link.like in the annelid theory the distinct features of the chordates are absent in the coelenterate and there are no fossil records of any common ancestors between the two. The coelenterate theory suggests that chordates arose from coelenterates. mesmerism. closed circulatory system. as in the case of the chordates. However there are concerns since . The researcher supports this theory as these features can be found in the modern lamprey larva. These similarities include bilateral symmetry. The cephalochordate theory of chordate origin was proposed by chamberlain who studied primitive and advanced characteristics of chordates. complete digestive tract. hemoglobin. lateral coelom. He proposed that while extant cephalochordates possess all the distinct of a chordate as well as some non chordate features such as lack of a heart and sensory organs . Canada that lend some support to his claim. However no evidence has been found that would link the chordates to the coelenterates .Garstang believed that chordates arose from sessile filter feeding urochordate by the larval stage evolving to adult.

.the body symmetry differs.

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