Monday, August 21, 2006

Chordates from Columbia

From Bartleby.com (Columbia encyclopedia)

[Chordata]phylum of animals having a notochord, or dorsal stiffening rod, as the chief internal skeletal support at some stage of their development. Most chordates are vertebrates (animals with backbones), but the phylum also includes some small marine invertebrate animals. The three features unique to chordates and found in all of them at least during early development are: the notochord, composed of gelatinous tissue and bound by a tough membrane; a tubular nerve cord (or spinal cord), located above the notochord; and gill slits leading into the pharynx, or anterior part of the digestive tract (the throat, in higher vertebrates). In addition, all have blood contained in vessels, and the tunicates and vertebrates have a ventrally located heart. All have a postanal tail, that is, an extension beyond the anus of the notochord or backbone and of the body-wall musculature, containing no internal organs.

[Verbrates] can be traced back to the Silurian period. In the adults of nearly all forms the backbone consists of a series of vertebrae. All vertebrates belong to the subphylum Vertebrata of the phylum Chordata. There are five classes of vertebrates: fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals.
There are eight vertebrate classes. Four are aquatic, and may be grouped together as the superclass Pisces, or fish; four are terrestrial or (in the case of amphibians) semiterrestrial, and may be grouped as the superclass Tetrapoda, or four-footed animals.
There are two invertebrate subphyla: the Urochordata, or tunicates, and the Cephalochordata, or lancelets. A third invertebrate group, comprising the acorn worms and their relatives, shows affinities with chordates and has sometimes been considered a chordate subphylum, but is now often classified in a phylum of its own, the Hemichordata.
[Invertebrates] any animal lacking a backbone. The invertebrates include the tunicates and lancelets of phylum Chordata, as well as all animal phyla other than Chordata. The major invertebrate phyla include: the sponges (Porifera), coelenterates (Cnidaria), echinoderms (Echinodermata), flatworms (Platyhelminthes), roundworms (Nematoda), segmented worms (Annelida), mollusks (Mollusca), and arthropods (Arthropoda). Invertebrates are tremendously diverse, ranging from microscopic wormlike mezozoans (see Mezozoa) to very large animals such as the giant squid. Approximately 95% of all the earth’s animal species are invertebrates; of these the vast majority are insects and other arthropods. Invertebrates are important as parasites and are essential elements of all ecological communities.

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