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15.22: Characteristics of Chordates - Biology

15.22: Characteristics of Chordates - Biology


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Vertebrates are members of the kingdom Animalia and the phylum Chordata (Figure 1). The most conspicuous and familiar members of Chordata are vertebrates, but this phylum also includes two groups of invertebrate chordates.

Characteristics of Chordata

Animals in the phylum Chordata share four key features that appear at some stage during their development: a notochord, a dorsal hollow nerve cord, pharyngeal slits, and a post-anal tail (Figure 2). In some groups, some of these are present only during embryonic development.

The chordates are named for the notochord, which is a flexible, rod-shaped structure that is found in the embryonic stage of all chordates and in the adult stage of some chordate species. It is located between the digestive tube and the nerve cord, and provides skeletal support through the length of the body. In some chordates, the notochord acts as the primary axial support of the body throughout the animal’s lifetime. In vertebrates, the notochord is present during embryonic development, at which time it induces the development of the neural tube and serves as a support for the developing embryonic body. The notochord, however, is not found in the postnatal stage of vertebrates; at this point, it has been replaced by the vertebral column (that is, the spine).

Practice Question

Which of the following statements about common features of chordates is true?

  1. The dorsal hollow nerve cord is part of the chordate central nervous system.
  2. In vertebrate fishes, the pharyngeal slits become the gills.
  3. Humans are not chordates because humans do not have a tail.
  4. Vertebrates do not have a notochord at any point in their development; instead, they have a vertebral column.

[reveal-answer q=”97577″]Show Answer[/reveal-answer]
[hidden-answer a=”97577″]Statement a is true.[/hidden-answer]

The dorsal hollow nerve cord derives from ectoderm that rolls into a hollow tube during development. In chordates, it is located dorsal to the notochord. In contrast, other animal phyla are characterized by solid nerve cords that are located either ventrally or laterally. The nerve cord found in most chordate embryos develops into the brain and spinal cord, which compose the central nervous system.

Pharyngeal slits are openings in the pharynx (the region just posterior to the mouth) that extend to the outside environment. In organisms that live in aquatic environments, pharyngeal slits allow for the exit of water that enters the mouth during feeding. Some invertebrate chordates use the pharyngeal slits to filter food out of the water that enters the mouth. In vertebrate fishes, the pharyngeal slits are modified into gill supports, and in jawed fishes, into jaw supports. In tetrapods, the slits are modified into components of the ear and tonsils. Tetrapod literally means “four-footed,” which refers to the phylogenetic history of various groups that evolved accordingly, even though some now possess fewer than two pairs of walking appendages. Tetrapods include amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals.

The post-anal tail is a posterior elongation of the body, extending beyond the anus. The tail contains skeletal elements and muscles, which provide a source of locomotion in aquatic species, such as fishes. In some terrestrial vertebrates, the tail also helps with balance, courting, and signaling when danger is near. In humans, the post-anal tail is vestigial, that is, reduced in size and nonfunctional.

Watch this video discussing the evolution of chordates and five characteristics that they share.

A link to an interactive elements can be found at the bottom of this page.


Quantitative analysis on the characteristics of targets with FDA approved drugs

Accumulated knowledge of genomic information, systems biology, and disease mechanisms provide an unprecedented opportunity to elucidate the genetic basis of diseases, and to discover new and novel therapeutic targets from the wealth of genomic data. With hundreds to a few thousand potential targets available in the human genome alone, target selection and validation has become a critical component of drug discovery process. The explorations on quantitative characteristics of the currently explored targets (those without any marketed drug) and successful targets (targeted by at least one marketed drug) could help discern simple rules for selecting a putative successful target. Here we use integrative in silico (computational) approaches to quantitatively analyze the characteristics of 133 targets with FDA approved drugs and 3120 human disease genes (therapeutic targets) not targeted by FDA approved drugs. This is the first attempt to comparatively analyze targets with FDA approved drugs and targets with no FDA approved drug or no drugs available for them. Our results show that proteins with 5 or fewer number of homologs outside their own family, proteins with single-exon gene architecture and proteins interacting with more than 3 partners are more likely to be targetable. These quantitative characteristics could serve as criteria to search for promising targetable disease genes.

Keywords: FDA Pfam Target disease drug homologs protein-protein interactions tissue.

Conflict of interest statement

Conflict of interest: The authors have declared that no conflict of interest exists.


The Discovery of Chromosomes

Back in the middle of the XIX century, many biologists (who were studying the structure of plant and animal cells under a microscope) drew attention to the thin filaments and the smallest ring-shaped structures in the nucleus of some cells. The German scientist Walter Fleming used aniline dyes to process the nuclear structures of the cell. Doing this he discovered the chromosomes. More precisely, the detected substance was named by him “chromatid” for its ability to stain, and the term “chromosomes” was introduced into use a little later (in 1888) by another German scientist, Heinrich Wilder. The word “chromosome” comes from the Greek words “chroma” – coloring and “somo” – body.


Section Summary

Echinoderms are deuterostome marine organisms. This phylum of animals bear a calcareous endoskeleton composed of ossicles covered by a spiny skin. Echinoderms possess a water-based circulatory system. The madreporite is the point of entry and exit for water for the water vascular system.

The characteristic features of Chordata are a notochord, a dorsal hollow nerve cord, pharyngeal slits, and a post-anal tail. Chordata contains two clades of invertebrates: Urochordata (tunicates) and Cephalochordata (lancelets), together with the vertebrates. Most tunicates live on the ocean floor and are suspension feeders. Lancelets are suspension feeders that feed on phytoplankton and other microorganisms.


Watch the video: Chordates - CrashCourse Biology #24 (June 2022).


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