Temporal range: Ordovician–Recent
|A Branchiostoma lanceolatum lancelet|
Cephalochordata (from Greek: κεφαλή kephalé, "head" and χορδή khordé, "chord") is a chordate subphylum defined by the presence of a notochord that persists throughout life. It is represented in the modern oceans by the lancelets (also known as Amphioxus). Along with its sister phylum Urochordata, Cephalochordata can be classified as belonging to the taxon Protochordata. 
The characteristics of Cephalochordata are that they are marine animals, segmented, and that they possess elongated bodies with a notochord that extends the length of the body and cirri surrounding the mouth for obtaining food. In cephalochordata the notochord extends from head to tail and it persists throughout their life. The members of this subphylum are very small and have no hard parts, making their fossils difficult to find. Fossilized species have been found in very old rocks predating vertebrates. There is famous fossil shale from the Middle Cambrian Burgess Shale of British Columbia, which has yielded Pikaia fossils. Recently a different cephalochordate fossil (Yunnanozoon) has been found in south China. It dates to the early Cambrian period and is the earliest known fossil of the cephalochordate lineage. They have numerous gill slits, and have separate sexes.
- Hickman. Animal Diversity. Michael S. Hackett. p. 313.
- K.M. Van De Graaff and J.L. Crawley, A Photographic Atlas for the Zoology Laboratory
- Chen, J.-Y., Dzik, J., Edgecombe, G.D., Ramsköld, L., and Zhou, G.-Q. 1995. "A possible Early Cambrian chordate" Nature 377: 720-722.
- Haaramo, Mikko. Cephalochordata – lancelets. Retrieved 2013-10-22.
- Kon, T. et al. (2006). "Hidden ancient diversification in the circumtropical lancelet Asymmetron lucayanum complex". Marine Biology 149 (4): 875–883. doi:10.1007/s00227-006-0271-y.
|This chordate-related article is a stub. You can help Wikipedia by expanding it.|