Section Summary

The five characteristic features of chordates present during some time of their life cycles are a notochord, a dorsal hollow tubular nerve cord, pharyngeal slits, endostyle/thyroid gland, and a post-anal tail. Chordata contains two clades of invertebrates: Urochordata (tunicates) and Cephalochordata (lancelets), together with the vertebrates in the Vertebrata/Craniata. Lancelets are suspension feeders that feed on phytoplankton and other microorganisms. Most tunicates live on the ocean floor and are suspension feeders. Which of the two invertebrate chordate clades is more closely related to the vertebrates continues to be debated. Vertebrata is named for the vertebral column, which is a feature of almost all members of this clade. The name Craniata (organisms with a cranium) is considered to be synonymous with Vertebrata.