The two subphyla of invertebrate chordates, the subphylum Urochordata (1250 species) and the subphylum Cephalochordata (45 species), lack a vertebral column. Although insignificant and little known, these marine animals are of great scientific interest as it is generally accepted that their ancestors were close relatives of the ancestral vertebrate. Studies of living invertebrate chordates have been very important in helping to solve the mystery of ‘the origin of the vertebrates’.

Origin of the invertebrate chordates Similarities between the chordates and living hemichordates suggest that they all evolved from a common ancestor belonging to the Class Graptolita, an extinct group of hemichordates. The reasons for thinking this are: Chordates and pterobranch and enteropneust hemichordates (e.g. Ptychodera australiensis and Balanoglossus sp.) possess pharyngeal gill slits and a dorsal nerve cord. Pterobranchs such as C. gilchristi and C. agglutinans are, in turn, remarkably similar to graptolites like Climatograptus sp. Similarities in larval development between hemichordates and echinoderms suggest that echinoderms may also share this common graptolite ancestor.

Characteristics: (common to vertebrate and invertebrate chordates) Chordates are coelomate animals that possess: a supporting rod or notochord; a single hollow dorsal nerve cord; ‘metameric segmentation’: division of the body muscles into similar units, known as segments, that are arranged serially one behind the other; gills at some stage of their lives: slit-like openings leading from the pharynx (throat region) to the outside of the body; typically a post-anal tail: a region of the body behind the anus that does not contain any part of the gut.

They are members of the phylum Chordata. sedentary form. they are harvested commercially for food that is eaten by both humans and domesticated animals. They lack segmentation. even in the tail. Exmple 2) LancetsThe lancelets (subphylum Cephalochordata. like the predatory Megalodicopia hians. Except for the pharynx. looking something like a cross between a jellyfish and a Venus Flytrap. sea squirts or cunji) is the subphylum of saclike filter feeders with incurrent and excurrent siphons. having dethroned lancelets from that position. which also includes lancelets and all vertebrates including humans. hagfish and vertebrates). the organs are enclosed in a membrane called an epicardium. Metanephridia are absent. They are now considered as the closest relatives to craniates (i. whereas the adult stage has a barrel-like. They are usually found buried in sand in shallow parts of temperate or tropical seas. As with other chordates. The motile larval stages may have the appearance of a tadpole. tunicates.e. The original coelom is degenerated to a pericardial cavity and gonads. tunicates possess a notochord during their early stages of development. They feed by filtering sea water through a gill basket. traditionally known as amphioxus) are a group of primitive chordates.Read furtherUrochordata (sometimes known as tunicata and commonly called urochordates. . which is surrounded by a jelly like matrix known as mesenchyme. In Asia. heart and gonads.EXAMPLES: 1) Tunicates. There are also a few exceptions to this plan.

They are an important object of study in zoology as they provide indications about the origins of the vertebrates. .