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Number of Species[edit]

This page needs to say approoximately how many species of chordates there are. --Savant13 13:55, 15 December 2006 (UTC)


In Taxonomy, should not tetrapodes (and below) be moved one step to the left? Can someone please evaluate the recent papers by vienne, et al (metaphylogeny of 82 genes sheds new light on chordate evolution) and Delsuc, et al (Tunicates and not cephalochordates are the closest living relatives of vertebrates)- I am not a professional biologist and so really don't feel I should put it in, but I think it should be commented on.


According to, the four characteristics of all chordates are the following:

pharyngeal slits - a series of openings that connect the inside of the throat to the outside of the "neck". These are often, but not always, used as gills.

dorsal nerve cord - a bundle of nerve fibers which runs down the "back". It connects the brain with the lateral muscles and other organs.

notochord - cartilaginous rod running underneath, and supporting, the nerve cord.

post-anal tail - an extension of the body past the anal opening.

I looked at tackling Vertebrata. Rather than redirect to Chordata I would have considered a separate page for Vertebrata to deal only with lower level taxonomy. Chordatea would then be reserved for the higher level discussion of the phylum into its sub-phyla.

We really need to decide on a set of vertebrate classes for use in wikipedia. Obviously a perfect (maybe even a satisfactory) scheme is impossible because the classification is currently unsettled, and different sources emphasize different priorities in its construction. However, at the moment we have pages using various older and newer schemes, and this only adds confusion. I would like to try tackling the problem of working out a standard system. Hopefully we can come up with something which is at least tolerable.

As a general approach, I think we should start with the traditional classes and try modifying them into holophyletic groups as much as is possible without completely reinventing the system. Also, we should work by picking and choosing from extant classifications, i.e. not introduce any new innovations. As always, the variant systems should be explained on the relevant pages; the important thing is not to have to do this for every order and family.

Rank of Vertebrata

The Vertebrata are traditionally ranked as a subphylum of the phylum Chordata. Many newer sources, however, distinguish the Craniata from the Vertebrata, the difference being that the former includes the hagfish. Such sources may assign ranks in a few different ways:

  • Phylum Chordata
    • Craniata (unranked)
      • Subphylum Myxini
      • Subphylum Vertebrata
  • Phylum Chordata
    • Subphylum Craniata
      • Class Myxini
      • Vertebrata (unranked)
  • Chordata/Chordonia (unranked)
    • Phylum Craniata
      • Subphylum Myxini
      • Subphylum Vertebrata

It is hard to tell which of these systems has the most support, but I think it is the second one. However, it is still far more common not to distinguish craniates and vertebrates, and so to have Chordata and Vertebrata as phylum and subphylum. Given this, I think the best option would be to keep these ranks, but acknowledge the new distinction by treating the hagfish as a subphylum, i.e. the first system. The name Myxini appears to be the most common for the rank of subphylum or class.

Jawless fish

Earlier classifications group jawless fish together as a class Agnatha, but they are not closely related to each other, and the idea of treating them as several different classes has been around for a long time. Sometimes the Agnatha is retained as a superclass, but I don't think there is much reason to do this, especially if the hagfish are being excluded from the vertebrates altogether. Exactly what classes should be used is a less obvious matter. The only extant forms, which we should worry about first, are the lampreys. It looks like they are most often placed in a class Cephalaspidomorphi. However, I imagine such a class would also include the extinct Cephalaspidiformes, which are no longer considered especially close to lampreys. As such a less common group, like Petromyzontida.

Jawed fish

The class Chondrichthyes and the extinct classes Placodermi and Acanthodii do not appear controversial, and I don't think we should not hesitate to use them. The Osteichthyes are more problematic. Traditionally they are treated as a class, with subclasses Actinopterygii and Sarcopterygii, but the latter is paraphyletic to the land vertebrates. As such, the land vertebrates are sometimes included as sisters or children of the Sarcopterygii, with various promotions or demotions of ranks to allow them to fit. Some sources, for instance ITIS, do not do this but still promote the Osteichthyes and its subtaxa. Alternatively its children may be promoted, and the Osteichthyes themselves abandoned.

I think the last would work best for us. Most fish would then be placed in the class Actinopterygii. Aside from the slight adjustment in rank, this is straight out of the traditional system (so should be fairly recognisable) and is entirely stable, unlike the Osteichthyes. It's not quite so clear what to do with the Sarcopterygii, whether to keep that as a paraphyletic class or to further divide it. Some sources list classes Actinistia (coelocanths) and Dipnoi (lungfish), but these don't cover all the extinct members, and I doubt anyone has erected separate classes for all of them. We may want to try treating them as orders without definite classes for the time being, as is done with Collembola and the like; this could apply to the living forms as well, since there are relatively few. I am not sure how this could be done in the parent taxobox, however.

Land vertebrates

Living amphibians probably form a monophyletic group, and so their treatment as a class Amphibia is no problem. The fossil ones are more difficult. Traditionally they were all included in the Amphibia, with living forms and their closer relatives comprising the subclass Lissamphibia. However, that makes the group paraphyletic, and so some have either restricted it to those forms closer to the Lissamphibia than the amniotes, or abandoned it in favour of a class Lissamphibia. I think we should keep Amphibia as a class. I would suggest giving it the narrower meaning, and so treating forms like Ichthyostega as tetrapods without a definite class.

The amniotes are especially hard to deal with. The traditional system divides them into classes Mammalia, Aves, and Reptilia. As the last is paraphyletic, varying other systems have been proposed with some support, especially among palaeontologists. The generally accepted relationship among living forms is as follows:

As far as these go, the mammals do fine as a separate class. However, this leads to problems considering the mammal-like reptiles. Traditionally these are placed in class Reptilia, subclass Synapsida, but they are closer relatives to mammals than they are to any other reptiles, and as such are excluded from phylogenetic definitions of reptiles. If the mammals are demoted to a subclass, they may be grouped with them as a class Synapsida, but otherwise these forms are difficult to place. It doesn't help that orders and families are confused as well. I think that at the moment they are probably not worth altering the traditional class Mammalia, and should probably be treated as having uncertain placement, for classes and for lower level ranks.

The other forms are more complicated, because birds fit right in the middle of the extant reptiles. A small but increasing number sources take the Reptilia, or Sauropsida as it may then be called, to include them. The same is even more true for the Diapsida and Archosauria, either of which could be a reptile subclass in traditional systems. The idea that the birds belong among the Dinosauria, traditionally a superorder, has made some entry into popular science. Some time ago Bakker had proposed changing the class Aves for a class Dinosauria, with Aves as a subclass, but this does little for the other reptiles and never really caught on.

The straightforward approach would be to demote Aves to a subclass, and include it in the class Reptilia. This, however, does not lend itself to making groups among the other reptile orders, and I have not seen it done. I have seen the Aves included in a class Diapsida, with a separate class Anapsida. This may stem from the idea that the mammals and diapsids are closer to each other than to the anapsids; things like the tree of life reject this, but I don't know if it has lost all support. Exactly how to organize the internal structure of this class isn't clear, but generally involves further demoting the birds. Another system which appears more common is to have three sauropsid classes, Anapsida, Lepidosauria, and Archosauria. The birds are usually a subclass of the last - occasionally an infraclass in the subclass Dinosauria, but I think we should stay away from infraclasses for such important groups, especially when all it accomplishes is a better treatment of the dinosaur groups (some of which are bound to be paraphyletic to birds no matter what).

As such, I would support dividing the amniotes into four classes, i.e. Anapsida, Lepidosauria, Archosauria, and Mammalia, with the mammal-like reptiles left tentatively classless. However, this system is contingent on the demotion of Aves to subclass, and I don't know enough about birds to know if this would be reasonable for ornithologists. Failing that, some have suggested promoting each of the reptile orders to classes, but this does not work at all for fossil forms. Leaving groups like dinosaurs, pterosaurs, and ichthyosaurs unclassified does not seem to me nearly as reasonable as doing the same with basal amphibians, so if this is the case I think we would need to retain the Reptilia.

Please let me know what you think about these. If someone wants, I would be happy to make up a couple of possible taxoboxes.


Interesting, Josh. I have to say that outside the birds, I haven't really had much idea what the current state of play is. Birds are a mess. Although Sibley et al have done valuable work on clarifying relationships, but their work is not without controversy, and is often felt to ignore non-DNA factors. The Americans have embraced Sibley whole-heartedly, but Europe has generally been more cautious.

The present state of the bird articles are something of a compromise, but, since the large majority are written by Europeans and Australians, tend to be fairly traditional. Exceptions, however, abound. Albatross follows a very recent BOU guideline, and many southern species are based on HANZAB. This probably doesn't help at all. jimfbleak 06:31 29 May 2003 (UTC)

One thing that has struck me about categories of fish is that some are very stable, and others under constant revision. I've been leaning towards pruning taxoboxes down to not include much that seems likely to change - it reduces their value a little as navigational devices, but not that badly. Then articles like Actinopterygii and Chordate can list out old and new taxa schemes. If a scheme becomes unfashionable, then all you have to do is annotate it with "no longer used, but possibly a useful reference when reading old books". (One of FishBase's amusing features is the list of previously-used names for species, often clarifies other mystifying sources.) Trying to develop and use a single scheme seems crazy-making, when we've got the room and the freedom to describe multiple competing schemes.

To take a specific example, Craniata is worth an article describing how and why it might be used, but I don't think it's useful to readers to include it in taxoboxes, and if it falls out of favor, that would be a lot of taxoboxes to edit. Stan 17:12 29 May 2003 (UTC)

On the other hand, if ranking Vertebrata as a subphylum fell out of favour, we would have just as much work ahead of us. That particular one doesn't seem especially likely, but in general there is a problem in that many of the standard groups seem likely to change. If you have some idea about which ones are worth keeping, I would be interested.

I agree with you that wikipedia can and should review all the different systems, or as many as possible. But when it comes down to it, things like guppies, grass snakes, and pigs will end up listing something in their taxoboxes, with minimal room for comment (I might note that I initially objected to taxoboxes for exactly this reason). It would be best if we had something standard to put there to avoid confusion, even something that might change later.

-- Josh

I think I'd rather try to invent a perpetual motion machine than develop/choose a single, stable taxonomic scheme. :( We just have to blunder along as best we can, I think. I won't make a specific comment on most of the above, as I have yet to learn much about anything other than birds and mammals - and there is enough confusion and ambiguity in those two alone to keep us busy for quite some time! Tannin

Ok, then. Instead of pointing out the obvious, that the classification of chordates is incredibly variable and that there is no good way of settling on a single system, maybe you could suggest an alternative. Should we omit taxoboxes on vertebrate pages, should we include them but omit classes, should we include classes but not worry about any kind of consistency between different pages, or what? The need for a single system is a problem which we could have avoided, but we adopted it anyways, and it doesn't do much good to say it's unfeasible now.

Here's an idea: I don't think it's likely that Vertebrata will go away anytime soon (feels around in back - yup, backbone still there :-) ), and it's always going to be a leading differentiator in the minds of our audience, so the problem with its taxobox inclusion is not so much its presence, as what we call it. To make that easier to mass-change we could have special redir pages - Vertebrata as phylum, Vertebrata as subphylum, and piped to "Phylum" etc, then it's not too hard to find all the refs and rewrite them with a script at some point. Another option could to include the group name but simply leave the phylum/class/order word blank - yes, they're all clickable for consistency, but I bet statistics would show that readers almost never take that route from a random taxobox, so for troublesome groups simply don't try to assert what kind of taxa they are. Next round of fish additions, I'll play around a bit, see how it looks in practice. Stan 19:16 29 May 2003 (UTC)
The Actinopterygii aren't much of a problem, we just have to decide whether to use that or Osteichthyes as the class. I would suggest just going ahead and using class Actinopterygii, since that doesn't impact most other groups. If nobody balks, I'll probably end up changing the currently listed orders and families to it. Other groups are more of a problem. Trying things out is a good idea. It might be better to, instead of introducing ranked redirect pages, simply standardize on a table format without white space, e.g. <tr><td>Class:<\td><td>[[Chondrichthyes]]<\td><\tr>, so that it could be searched for. Josh
(Via edit conflict.) A fair comment, Josh, but rather pessimistic, I think. Is the glass half full or half empty?
I have no particular opinion to offer on the best way to tackle the fundamental categories, and in reality, it doesn't really matter from the point of view of the bird and mammal entries that I mostly deal with. (It's not that I'm not interested in (e.g.) trees or fish, by the way, just a matter of not having time to do everything at once. Quite often I wish I was triplets!) In these areas, the top half of the taxobox is unimportant. In 99.9X% of cases, the reader can be assumed to already have a pretty fair idea of what a "bird" or a "mammal" is. However we normally can't assume that the reader knows the difference between the Diprotodontia and the Dasyuromorphia - and if you want to learn about marsupials, getting a handle on that difference is half the battle.
In other words, the taxoboxes serve a really valuable function, and provide a very useful navigation purpose. The fact that they are (and will probably always be) imperfect does not make them useless, not by any means.
Now, with regard to consistency: this is an issue, and will always remain an issue. For my part, I have been working on getting as many bird and mammal taxoboxes consistent with each other as possible, and intend to continue doing that. (Other contributors are doing the same, of course.) For the most part, this is not too difficult a task. Yes, there are times when it isn't possible, but these are relatively infrequent and, with care, can usually be dealt with fairly gracefully. I mean "consistent" in three different ways here: consistent in content - trying, for example, to have the individual raptors classified as either Falconiformes or Ciconiiformes and not a mixture of both - and consistent in style: bringing, bit by bit, the taxoboxes and the in-text listings into a form that, allowing for the unavoidable variation imposed by individual circumstances, is visually similar: which both provides a more professional look and feel to the 'pedia and makes it easier for the reader to find things and grasp the relationship between them; and consistent in table code: that means editing out the masses of useless extra spaces and bizzare line breaks that make it so hard to see what you are doing when you are altering a taxobox.
I think it would be a serious mistake to insist on any particular uniform set of classification levels. For example, with some taxa it really does help to specify subfamilies, but with others that "extra" information only results in making the entry less informative. However, if there are improvememts to be made to the top half of the standard vertebrate taxobox, and these have broad consensus support, then I'll be happy to do my share of the article editing to bring the existing ones into line. Tannin 19:53 29 May 2003 (UTC)

I agree that, despite their limitations, the taxoboxes have turned out to be cool and useful. That's why I've added them to a number of groups, and why I would like to add them here. The problem is that doing that requires deciding on a particular higher level classification to work with, which is why I wanted to see people's opinions on the matter. I'm not trying to force much else onto the way the lower levels are treated - I would suggest leaving out intermediate ranks that are not standard or are variable, but both you and Stan obviously already know that.

So, then, in absence of specific suggestions, I'm going to go ahead and add classes which I think will work best for the time being. The rationale is that given above, plus me being to timid to try splitting the Reptilia and demoting the Aves without anyone's support. Please don't hesitate to suggest changes.

Does anyone have a source for "bands of muscles that go around the body" as a criteria for chordates? As far as I'm concerned, the slits, notochord, hollow nerve cord and post-anal tail are the "main" characteristics. jag123 17:11, 10 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Vertebrata vs Craniata[edit]

This was mentioned by Sholtar below, but I believe that it is a matter of taxonomy. I am not an expert, but from the page on Craniates and its references, it appears that modern (2010) DNA results have conclusively shown that Cyclostomata is monophylectic, making Craniata a junior synonym for Vertebrata. Would it be correct to update the numerous references throughout the page to consistently refer to vertebrates? I believe that craniates should still be mentioned in the taxonomy section to recognize the relationship and provide clarification. Is it good practice to simply copy the references from the craniates page or should I leave editing for an expert?

This should probably be reflected on many other articles as well, but I will discuss it on their respective talk pages.

Pscyking (talk) 19:50, 14 July 2016 (UTC)

Images representative of the diversity in vertebrates and chordates[edit]

Rather than have tuna representing both vertebrates and chordates - which will leave people seriously confused at first - I propose we should include more than one picture, or possibly taxobox:

Pacific hagfish Myxine.jpg
Pacific Hagfish resting on bottom
280 m down off Oregon coast
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Myxini
Order: Myxiniformes
Family: Myxinidae

- Samsara 17:51, 10 January 2006 (UTC)

Addendum: I know it's not stricly correct to consider the less successful taxa like lampreys and hagfishes "basal" or "primitive", but I think focussing on them rather than the more familiar ones is at least illustrative from a human perspective. So I propose to make it a rule to always include a familiar and a "basal" example, with the basal example topmost, and ideally two examples that do not inhabit the same environment, so that the second picture is not assumed to be included due to its feeding relationship with the former, but clearly as another member of the group.
There are many cases where this rule could be usefully applied, especially those taxa which include humans: animals, deuterostomes, chordates, vertebrates, mammals, primates... Similarly for the taxa leading up to flowering plants. - Samsara 18:00, 10 January 2006 (UTC)
Including the tunicates as a better example (tuna-hagfish is probably more representative of the craniata).
Sea Tulips, Pyura spinifera
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Urochordata
Giribet et al., 2000
Perhaps a less plant-like photo could be found? I know they look like that, but there are photographers gifted enough to portray them more animal-like? - Samsara 18:05, 10 January 2006 (UTC)
How about a picture of a Lancelet? Basal chordate, and much more fish-like than the tunicates. I can't find any actual photos on Wikipedia, but a Google image search turns up a few decent ones.Dinoguy2 21:24, 17 January 2006 (UTC)
There was one in commons, which I put on lancelet. -- Samsara 01:58, 18 January 2006 (UTC)
The question now is how to put it in the article? Taxobox does not seem to support inserting a second image. - Samsara contrib talk 01:21, 1 February 2006 (UTC)

Tree in main text.[edit]

Until recently the classification tree in the main body of the text (not the one under the picture) was indented to indicate the ranks of the clades, with evolutionary relations indicated roughly by the order of the clades at a given "degree of indentation". Someone recently indented everything from tetrapod down inside dipnoi, on the (correct) grounds that tetrapods evolved from lungfish. But is the tree meant to replresent this fact in this way? If there's a convention, please state it. But the tree now looks as though it's saying that tetrapods are a kind of lungfish.

Also, I'm really worried here, because I don't want to be a lungfish.

Yeah, this is really really messed up!! Someone needs to fix this ASAP. Maybe look back to around the revision as of 16:28, 25 September 2005 --AlanH 15:56, 2 March 2006 (UTC)
Actually, it isn't clear why Tetrapoda was indented under Dipnoi. The tetrapods did not (as far as I know) evolve from within the current lungfish clade, but rather were a sister group of the Dipnoi under Sarcopterygii, the lobefins. The tree was incorrect before the anonymous editor made the change: the tetrapods were attached two levels too high. But the anonymous editor was too exuberant, and pushed the tetrapods down three levels instead of only two. (I'm going by the NCBI taxonomy site here.) Anyway, I'll fix it.
This doesn't actually answer the anonymous objector above, who didn't want to be a lungfish, because although we are not lungfish, we are lobefins, which the objector may find just as upsetting. There's not much that we can do about that, I'm afraid, without lying. ACW 20:12, 2 March 2006 (UTC)


Bony fish aren't listed in the taxobox. I'd change it, but I have no idea how to edit a taxobox. Bony fish are the class Osteichthyes, subphylum Vertebrata.

erm...are you sure all chordates have a musculer tail? humans don't plus a million other vertebrates...or am i missing something.

In the system we're using, bony fish are divided into two classes, Actinopterygii and Sarcopterygii. Osteichthys is something of a superclass.Dinoguy2 21:06, 8 May 2006 (UTC)

Hagfish a vertebrate?[edit]

The placement of hagfishes in this tree is a problem because opinion is divided whether or not they are related to lampreys. Two centuries ago both hagfishes and lampreys were classified together as "Cyclostomi" based on some shared features, and the cyclostomes were taken to be the sister group to jawed vertebrates (Gnathostomata). The many simple features of hagfishes were taken to be the result of degeneration owing to parasitic life.

Later, it was realized that hagfish is an active predator, not just a parasite, so it may not have simplified so much after all. Perhaps it retained its simple features from an ancestral state. In that case, it must have diverged from vertebrates long before the split between the lampreys and gnathostomes.

Linnaeus apparently used the names Craniata and Vertebrata interchangeably. But since hagfishes lack actual vertebrae but do have a cranium, it seemed logical to apply the name Vertebrata to the (lamprey + gnathostome) group, and Craniata to the more inclusive group of (vertebrates + hagfishes). (See <>)

Now the tables may have turned again. Many molecular studies have concluded that hagfishes and lampreys may be sister groups after all, which implies that the ancestors of hagfishes once had vertebrate and other vertebrate characters, but lost them for whatever reason. In that case, hagfishes are true vertebrates, and the taxon Craniata becomes redundant.

It's not clear that the dispute between morphology and molecules has been resolved. One way to keep the classification neutral until the dust clears would be to list hagfishes, lampreys, and gnathostomes as equal groups under Craniata, without implying a closer relationship among any of the three. Fossil groups of jawless fishes could also be listed the same way under craniates.

The main problem with that solution is it leaves Vertebrata in limbo. If hagfishes are sister group to lampreys, the more familiar Vertebrata should be used in preference to Craniata, and the most recent edits to the Chordate article would be the best approach. Regardless of what we decide, the discussion of the subphyla should address this controversy.

Cephal-odd 07:45, 10 May 2006 (UTC)

I just added links to the Tree Of Life and NCBI Taxonomy nodes for "Chordata". These were the first external links, and in fact were this article's first references of any kind. Now, I agree with Cephal-odd that there is a taxonomic controversy involving the branching order of the Craniata. That having been said, both the sites I referenced agree that the Hyperotreti are craniates but not vertebrates. So I have taken the liberty of editing our taxonomy to show this. I have no objection to somebody moving the Hyperotreti back down under the vertebrates, but if you do so, please add a reference supporting this view. I think we can't go wrong as long as we make sure we back up our tree with reputable references. ACW 02:20, 11 June 2006 (UTC)

list of sub classes etc[edit]

I've made a few changes to the list - my aim was to add the Superclass Osteichthyes with the classes Actinopterygii (ray-finned fish) and Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) within them. Though I ended up altering format a bit. Have I got this right?HappyVR 18:35, 2 July 2006 (UTC)

The addition of Osteichthyes is a good idea.
The change in format aligns all the classes of gnathostomes, but that's a break from how it's been formatted before. The prior version was using something akin to Michael Benton's system of indenting taxa to show sister relationships, hence the heading "Taxonomy & Phylogeny".
Our table should show that Osteichthyes here is a paraphyletic group that excludes its tetrapod descendants. It might be a good idea to include Euteleostomi, a newer name for the clade that includes bony fish and tetrapods. Some references have used the name Osteichthyes to refer to the whole clade, but Euteleotomi was proposed to avoid the confusion of having a name associated with bony fish (and literally meaning "bony fish") include the tetrapods.
Cephal-odd 15:48, 4 July 2006 (UTC)
Yes, rather stupidly I didn't notice that the heading included phylogeny. So the tetrapod classes (and amniota ?) need to be tabbed to the right? Before I correct this could I draw your attention to Wikipedia:Village pump (technical)#How to add structure to a list where I and other people have been attempting to find a way to show relationships in a list. Obviously the list can be easily sorted out - but would using 'lines and T junctions' be a better way to show the phylogenetic relationships. Maybe we could use both. Or split the table into two. These are just suggestions.
Unfortunately I think I've altered a similar list in a similar way, I'll have to go and check whether that list was also supposed to show phylogeny as well. It was vertebrate, luckily that list was labeled just 'taxonomy', but it did previously show the evolutionary 'rank' as right indent - I'll try to sort that out.HappyVR 16:43, 4 July 2006 (UTC)
OK I've made an attempt at redoing the list - please check. Note I've assumed that the tetrapods are decended from an (extinct) member of the lobe-finned fishes. I'm quite certain that I've made a mistake here - please correct or let me know. (I wouldn't be surprised if I've made other mistakes)HappyVR 18:00, 4 July 2006 (UTC)

I've tried to do what I suggested above - adding lines to show evolutionary relationships - unforunately can't get rid of the box round the section at the moment. Is this ok?HappyVR 18:24, 4 July 2006 (UTC)

Perhaps because I've taken so long to check on it, the link you provided to the Village Pump no longer seems to lead to a discussion about list structure. Is it archived somewhere? Regardless, I like the diagram with lines and T-junctions. The format somewhat resembles that used on sites such as Mikko's Phylogeny Archive <>.
It should help clear up ambiguity about the phylogeny.
The main drawback I see is that it makes the Linnean ranks harder to read, because a taxon's place in the traditional hierarchy often doesn't match its place in the phylogeny. Maybe we should have a separate table showing the Linnean classification? The advantage to having two separate tables is that we can leave traditional classifications alone but add phylogenetic trees, article by article.
You say you're certain you've made a mistake, but the placement of tetrapods looks right to me. Tetrapods are indeed desceneded from a group of lobe-finned fishes. The only error I see is that Acanthodii is shown outside Teleostomi, but acanthodians are actually considered to be teleostomes -- I'll correct this. Otherwise, the tree looks good.
Cephal-odd 04:27, 13 August 2006 (UTC)

Lack of consistency[edit]

Could someone merge the list in a table on the right side, like every other page I saw (for example Animalia or at least like Carnivora) for consistency?


On 7 March 2006, wrote:

It has been theorised that the phylum originated as a result of paedomorphy occurring in a primitive animal, like a sponge or coral.

On 7 May 2006, M Alan Kazlev altered this to:

It has been theorised that the phylum originated as a result of paedomorphy occurring in a primitive ancestral form.

This comment must be substantiated. I am removing it; either of the above users may feel free to add it back with an appropriate citation. --April Arcus 20:38, 3 September 2006 (UTC)


User:Freepsbane just added Hemichordata as a subordinate group to Chordata. I had thought that the chordates and the hemichordates were sister groups. I'm going to revert this, because I can't find any source for the claim.

The sources I usually depend on here are the NCBI Taxonomy Homepage and the Tree of Life site. Neither of these has hemichordates as a daughter group of chordates. ToL, in fact, says that the hemichordates are more closely allied to the echinoderms than either are to the chordates.

Furthermore, the Wikipedia article on the Hemichordata calls it a phylum, not a subphylum, and does not give Chordata as a parent group. And the text of this article itself says things "... is broken up into three subphyla ..." and then does not list hemichordates.

If we decide to change this, we should change it everywhere.ACW 14:59, 24 October 2006 (UTC)

I believe vertebrates are not in the same phylum as tunicates and lancelets.[edit]

As said above, there are too many differences, and not just the vertebrae, vertebrates have a backbone, a central nervous system, a spinal cord, a brain case, sensory organs, and a head.

However, I do believe that Tunicates and Lancelets are a sister phylum of vertebrates and are our closest living relatives, which means I believe that they are closely related but form an outgroup to the assembledge of Vertebrates, so yes, I believe they are in the same superphylum, but not in the same phylum, as there are more differences than there are similarities.

It is accurate to classify them as the same superphylum as vertebrates, but going as far as to classify them in the same phylum as Vertebrates is grossly innaccurate. I hope my post was constructive. The Winged Yoshi

Incorrect. The 'key characteristic' for the Phylum Chordata (Vertebrata is a subphylum, not a phylum) is the presence of a notochord, not a backbone. There is no group called "invertebrates", that's just a general term to describe the multitude of phyla that do not belong to the subphylum vertebrata. Dinoguy2 (talk) 23:31, 21 December 2007 (UTC)

Benton classification[edit]

Though I understand that relying solely on Benton's classification has the advantage of relying on a single source, the change seems to be a step backward. Some of the problems include

  • Since Vertebrate Paleontology is about vertebrates, the invertebrate groups get shortchanged (urochodate classes have disappeared).
  • Several ostracoderm groups have disappeared. I'm not sure if this is an accident or reflects Benton's classification.
  • Benton and some other workers use the name "Myxinoidea", which is at odds with "Myxini", as the Wikipedia article and many other workers call it. The entry should at least make reference to the name Wikipedia uses.
  • Similarly, Hyperoartia was changed to Petromyzontida which often is held to exclude the stem-group.
  • The wish to have a consistent system of Linnaean ranks to synchronize chordate pages with other Wikipedia tree of life pages. However, it seems to me that Benton's classification stands out, not because it's standard, but because most of the current vertebrate paleontology literature doesn't use ranks at all. As such, some eccentricities, such as Benton's use of "Sauropsida" as a paraphyletic group excluding birds, have become part of the Wikipedia classification even though no one else in the field seems to use the name that way.
  • Having said that, I sympathize with Benton's efforts to recognize grades of evolution in his classification. Though skeptical of Linnaean ranks, I support keeping paraphyletic groups like Agnatha as informal taxa. - Cheers, Cephal-odd (talk) 23:29, 25 May 2008 (UTC)
Well, I suppose the only alternative to using a single source would be to use a fully-cited synthesis of several sources. For example, if Myxinoidea replaces Myxini, it should have a cite as to who uses the group with that name at that rank (not equivalent clade position, but rank, if it's in a taxonomy rather than phylogeny section). Or, do away with the taxonomy section completely for this article, and discuss any ranked taxa mentioned in the taxobox in the text. Dinoguy2 (talk) 00:42, 26 May 2008 (UTC)

Please review[edit]

I've had a go at getting Chordate into good shape for Wikipedia Version 0.7. I doubt whether there's time to get it up to A-class or GA, but I'd hope B-class would be easy enough. Please comment.

Then we can consider the V 0.7 offer of free copyediting. -- Philcha (talk) 13:12, 29 September 2008 (UTC)

Kimberella is a deuterostome?[edit]

I thought that the most dominant view was that it was a mollusc or a near mollusc protostome. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:00, 16 October 2008 (UTC)

The article says Kimberella was a protostome. There is still debate about how close it was to molluscs - see Kimberella for details. --Philcha (talk) 15:10, 5 November 2008 (UTC)

Echinodermata larvae[edit]

Can anyone verify claims that bilateral larvae of echinoderms (e.g., Bipinnaria) are a link between them and hemichordates/chordates? I'd like to see that point presented in counterpoint to the symmetry argument in the second paragraph of the "closest non-chordate relatives" section. The reason I say this is because I thought that radial symmetry in echinoderms was a well-known example of secondary adaptation. Mikelsmith (talk) 20:31, 30 November 2008 (UTC)

Image sizes - doubleimage[edit]

I've undone your recent adjustments to the images at Chordate, as they made a complete mess of the layout on a widescreen monitor (these are becoming increasingly common, and this makes image lauout more difficult). MOS does not forbid sizing of image. If you have other suggestions about image sizes, please discuss them at Talk:Chordate. --Philcha (talk) 10:25, 4 December 2008 (UTC)

I'm not sure I understand how 180px would mess up the layout on a widescreen monitor. Could you elaborate? And yes, they are becoming increasingly common, but accessibility guidelines and MOS:IMAGES seem to discourage forcing images to a fixed size: "Generally, you should use the thumbnail option ("thumb")... As a rule images should not be forced to a fixed size..." Logged in users can change their image default size to a larger size for, perhaps, reasons of impaired vision, but their defaults cannot override a fixed image width. Why should we dictate what image size they're able to view?
And if you want to see a messed up layout, you should see the page as it currently stands on my monitor (1024x768px aspect ratio, maybe 19-inch monitor? I don't really know), but a standard laptop setup, probably one of the most common aspect ratios and screen sizes out there. You must agree at least that using {{doubleimage}} was an improvement over the current convoluted table system around those two sections. I'm sure we can work out the differences here and can come to a reasonable compromise on image placement. I must say, however, that I would have preferred notification before reversion of my edit, assuming good faith, though I can understand the need to immediately make the layout look better on your setup. Cheers, Rkitko (talk) 13:15, 4 December 2008 (UTC)
The problem with widescreen monitors (16:10 or 16:9 aspect ratio) is that, in a maximised browser window, the height of text paragraphs is much smaller. A 180px width makes many images taller than the corresponding para.
I've set the "restore" size for my browser to a 4:3 aspect ratio like your screen's, and I've just rechecked - the layout is as good as I can make it at both ratios. What do you consider "messed up" about it?
The images here are not meant to provide detailed info about the critters but to show how disparate some of the chordate and related phyla are, i.e. they might be quite closely related phylogenetically, but have very dissimilar body plans. In some cases that meant 2 images per phylum / sub-phylum, e.g. to illustrate the huge difference between enteropneusts and pterobranchs (both in phylum hemichordates). Of course that makes layout more difficult.
I didn't know about {{doubleimage}}, thanks for that! Although I note from your edit comment that the template may not be quite mature. I appreciate that table layouts are tricky, although I know some situations where even {{doubleimage}} can't do what a table can.
Re accessibility, I've been keeping an eye on and occasionally contributing to Wikipedia talk:Accessibility. Images are of little use to blind or practically blind users, and for them the best approximation to the LONGDESC attribute of the IMG tag is a wikilink to a relevant article. Users who are not actually blind but have severely impaired visual acuity often use special software to enlarge all the contents of a screen (I worked with an almost-blind guy, who was such a good programmer that his employer provided a humungous monitor as well as the software), and modern browers including belatedly IE7 offer a "zoom" facility that applies to both text and images. Such users will be accustomed to using this, and I check layouts at 3 levels of zoom. BTW my eyesight is at the low end of the "normal" range for both acuity and focal depth - I need fairly strong varifocal glasses.
At present MOS does not forbid explicit sizing of images, and AFAIK current discussions, mainly at Wikipedia talk:Accessibility, suggest that the consensus is against an outright ban. --Philcha (talk) 13:55, 4 December 2008 (UTC)
Thanks for your interesting replies! I really haven't had much experience with accessibility issues, so I find all of this fascinating. To elaborate on my earlier comment about the current layout, there appears to be excess unnecessary white space because of the image placement. I also find 100px to be extremely small and almost useless for an image, unless the entire image was the object. I admit at any width smaller than 300 for the tunicate image on the right, it's going to be difficult to tell what the image is attempting to illustrate. Since I'm not sure how to alter my aspect ratio to 16:10 or 16:9, I've created this subpage that we can tinker with: Talk:Chordate/sandbox. If you could take a look with your setup and tell me if that's unreasonable, I'd appreciate it.
I of course agree on the purpose of the images and that this appears to be one of the exceptions the MOS guidelines (which do indicate that "As a rule images should not be forced to a fixed size...") would allow. Do you agree that {{doubleimage}} would be more desirable in layout and ease of editing than the table? If so, then all we need to do is find the right width to set the images at for the layout to look right at all (or at least most) aspect ratios. As for the template's design and usage, it's complete and has been for a while. I put in a request for it to be able to handle "thumb" as an image size, something the original designers may not have thought of when creating it, hence my earlier comment about it not being able to do so "yet". It has decent usage, around 500 article transclusions.
Take a look at the subpage and let me know what you think of the above. Have a good weekend! --Rkitko (talk) 01:57, 6 December 2008 (UTC)
I've had a look at Talk:Chordate/sandbox and:
  • On a widescreen monitor (16:9, the images are taller than the paras, so they are no longer aligned with the related text, the echinoderm imgs overlap into section "Origins", this pushes the Haikouichthys pic down, and the cladogram is forced left of the Haikouichthys pic (I guess the CSS float spec forgot to handle situations like this, where the last floated element is the widest). Could be resolved by inserting {{clear}} in the right places, but this would make gaps in the text.
  • {{clear}} generates equal-height image boxes, so the shorter of the two images in each pair is vertically centred, leaving a pair of small vertical gaps between the actual img and the inner border of the box. This occurs at aspect ratio 4:3 as well as 16:9. Since readers will be used to single images that fill their boxes, I think they will find these gaps messy and distracting.
This version of the article is a temporary fix-up to get an important topic from start-class to B-class quickly for Wikipedia v 0.7. IMO the amount of text about genuine chordates (tunicates, cephalochordates and craniates) would have to be at more than doubled to get the article to GA level, and the other deuterostomes (echinoderms, hemichordates) would probably have a section of their own, e.g. "Closest evolutionary relatives", but with about the same amount of content as now. So I think it's premature to put significant effort into improving the layout right now. --Philcha (talk) 10:57, 6 December 2008 (UTC)


These might be useful: --Philcha (talk) 20:38, 3 January 2009 (UTC)

Evolutionary history[edit]


This definition is really confusing to me, a layman:

Chordates form a phylum - a grouping of animals with a shared bodyplan[1] - defined by having at some stage in their lives all of the following:[2]

  • a notochord, in other words a fairly stiff rod of cartilage that extends along the inside of the body and helps the animal to swim by flexing its tail.
  • a dorsal neural tube, which develops into the spinal cord, the main commmunications trunk of the nervous system, in fish and other vertebrates
  • pharyngeal slits. The pharynx is the part of the throat immediately behind the mouth. In fish the slits are modified to form gills, but in other chordates they are part of a filter feeding system that extracts particles of food from the water in which the animals live.
  • a muscular tail that extends backwards behind the anus.
  • an endostyle. This groove in the ventral wall of the pharynx produces mucus to gather food particles, helps in transporting food to the esophagus,[3] and stores iodine. It may be a precursor of the vertebrate thyroid gland.[2]

It seems to be saying that at some stage in their lives all chordates swim, have tails, and have either gills or a filter feeding system. If this is true, it's amazing and cool (maybe mammals have all these properties in utero or something?) and needs to be explained to dummies like me for this to be a useful definition.

My suspicion is that what it really means to say is that at some stage of their development (not 'at some stage of their life,' which implies time out of the uterus to many of us), all chordates have notochords, dorsal nerve tubes, pharyngeal slits, etc., and then it means to give examples of some of the things these structures develop into in various chordates. I think the definition needs to make clearer what's definition and what's example.

For example, I'm not sure what happens to the pharyngeal slits of mammals, but I'm pretty sure they're not for filter feeding or gills, so the description is just confusing. Same thing with notochords. I'm sure bats have them at some point in their development, and I'm equally sure they don't help bats swim at any stage of bat development, so saying 'all chordates have notochords, which helps the animal swim' sounds inconsistent with the basic fact that mammals are chordates. -- (talk) 02:24, 7 January 2009 (UTC)

Thanks for spotting the problems. The difficulty is that chordates are among the most varied of phyla, ranging from brainy, active vertbrates to brainless filter-feeders - right now the only phylum I can think of that's more varied is molluscs (from oysters to squid). At the other end of the scale arthropods look varied but are just assemblies of LEGO bricks. So the shared distinguishing features of chordates are things are superseded in the embryological development of the most familiar chordates, ourselves.</rant> I've tried to clarify it, see what you think. --Philcha (talk) 09:14, 7 January 2009 (UTC)
Why yes! That is a great improvement. If you keep it up, I just might start to believe in this whole wiki business! (talk) 02:00, 12 March 2009 (UTC)

I've removed tail as a requirement for now, as it seems we don't have one unless you count the umbilical cord as a tail. Or perhaps that very last bone in the spine. But if it is reverted, I don't plan on changing it back. I couldn't even find all the instances yet. ArchabacteriaNematoda (talk) 17:42, 27 April 2009 (UTC)

Tail appears in the sources, and in the Benton quote about chordates' tails and vertebrates' heads. "that very last bone in the human spine" is the coccyx, aka "tailbone". See also File:Tubal Pregnancy with embryo.jpg. --Philcha (talk) 19:16, 27 April 2009 (UTC)
Human embryos have a tail. It is not necessary for a chordate to still have a tail at birth in order to satisfy the idea that it has a tail at some stage of its life cycle. - Richard Cavell (talk) 12:44, 1 September 2009 (UTC)

Perhaps some Embryology images would be interesting here; perhaps in synthesis with DNA, Evolutionary, and Palaeontological context images and discussion. There is something retro about a Taxia classification model which focuses so much (despite reference links) on the currently extant organisms. Clearly Molecular Phylogenetics including the work of Charles Sibley for Aves will ultimately drive the future of classification as it is synthesized with the imperatives apparently requiring a more nuanced understanding of the field. —Preceding unsigned comment added by EvoDNA (talkcontribs) 16:20, 29 April 2011 (UTC)


Protochordate redirects here, but is not mentioned. Any chance of a definition? Jeff Knaggs (talk) 10:19, 5 March 2009 (UTC)


This article includes a rather poor selection of images. All of them are of sea creatures; most of them don't show their significance like the first one (the one in the infobox) does. Tezkag72 (talk) 18:53, 22 June 2009 (UTC)

All deuterostomes and hence all chordates are wholly aquatic, except some vertebrates. -Philcha (talk) 19:36, 22 June 2009 (UTC)

Wait a second... aren't all mammals chordates? And all birds? And all dinosaurs? That's actually the reason I came onto this talk page; the article seems to indicate that they are, but there's not a single picture of anything non-aquatic, so now I'm confused... Korossyl (talk) 18:51, 27 June 2011 (UTC)
The examples you've given are vertebrates, which include: mammals and and their synapid ancestors; sauropsids, including crocodiles, lizards, and dinosaurs (the last including birds); amphibians; and fish. So pics of vertebrates should be in vertebrate, a branch on the bough chordates - chordates include sea squirts, cephalochordates and craniates, and vertebrates are the largest sub-group of craniates. --Philcha (talk) 20:54, 27 June 2011 (UTC)
So... if vertebrates are chordates... then shouldn't at least one picture on Chordate be of a vertebrate? The overwhelming impression is that chordates are limited to various fish and sealife. Korossyl (talk) 16:17, 30 June 2011 (UTC)

Image Removal[edit]

I've removed some images from the article, because I didn't think there was enough text to give the images room. I decided to remove two of the images under the "Closely Related Classes" heading, because these the images are not of actual Chordates. I also removed the Salp image, because there was already a picture representing the Tunicates. If at some point these sub-headings are expanded, it might be good to place them back.

ManfromButtonwillow (talk) 00:46, 20 November 2009 (UTC)

"closest related non-chortates"[edit]

Why is this section included in this article? I believe it violates Wikipedia guidelines; information on something that isn't included under the title shouldn't be in the article.--FUNKAMATIC ~talk 18:17, 20 March 2010 (UTC)

I agree, and propose that this section be deleted. It is confusing to have a picture of a sea star on a page about chordates.  — Demong talk 06:34, 8 July 2014 (UTC)
I wondered this too, but I can't find the guideline you're referring to, unfortunately. If nothing else, the two sub-sections could be reduced and summarized. ManfromButtonwillow (talk) 06:00, 21 March 2010 (UTC)
The current version is a temporary for WP:Version 0.7. I agree that the proportions are not good, but it's in my to-do to improve this by beefing up the chordate-specific content to GA, as I've done with some invertebrate phyla - and then improve articles on other deuterosome phyla. Background for all of there is that phylogeny, especially molecular, has been a very topic since the early 1990s and has been re-written the tree of life. --08:08, 21 March 2010 (UTC)
That section is relevant to the topic, just does not need to be too big. Graeme Bartlett (talk) 03:15, 28 June 2011 (UTC)

Reference help[edit]

I've updated the text to reflect the recent evidence for tunicates and not cephalochordates. This is based on both embryological and whole genome analysis. Some of the most important authorities on urochordate and cephalochordate biology are authors on these findings (Peter Holland, Nori Satoh). In the recent amphioxus genome paper, they write:

"To address the controversial phylogenetic position of amphioxus, we analysed a much larger set of 1,090 orthologous genes (see Supplementary Note 5). Both bayesian and maximum likelihood methods support the new chordate phylogeny38, 39, 40 in which cephalochordates represent the most basal extant chordate lineage, with tunicates (represented by both Ciona intestinalis and Oikopleura dioica in our analysis) sister to vertebrates but with long branches that indicate higher levels of amino acid substitution (Fig. 1)."

As the morphology suggests, tunicates are more derived than cephalocordates. However, what this shows is that the cephalochordate lineage split off before the divergence of vertebrates from tunicates. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:10, 21 April 2010 (UTC)

I seem to be having trouble with the links to the references themselves... could anybody help me out? They are: —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:13, 21 April 2010 (UTC)

ang panget ni oya phylum

matabang mataba sya — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 09:48, 24 September 2012 (UTC)

non sequitur[edit]

In the section "Overview of affinities" the frist paragraph was about tetrapods. This seems to me entirely inappropriate. There are these seven major clades--Craniata Vertebrata Gnathostomata Teleostomi Euteleostomi Sarcopterygii Dipnotetrapodomorpha[1]--between Chordata and Tetrapoda. This makes it clear that discussing internal tetrapod affinities is a non sequitur to chordate affinities. It does not belong in this article about Chordates.

You did the right thing. Thanks.--cyclopiaspeak! 15:17, 10 September 2014 (UTC)

Vertebrata vs Craniata[edit]

This page is currently fairly confusing to a non-expert, because in the introduction it clearly splits the phylum into three subphyla, one of which is Vertebrata, but then later down the page when it goes into more detail, suddenly we're talking about Craniata instead.

Judging from what is said on the Vertebrata and Craniata pages, it looks like Vertebrata is currently the more-supported division, but I don't know enough about this field to know whether that's actually the case. Either way, this page would be much more useful to someone learning about the subject if it chose one consistent way of splitting up the phylum and stuck with it. Even better would be to explain the state of the research on the topic. Sholtar]] | [[User_talk:Sholtar|talk (talk) 23:21, 19 February 2015 (UTC)

Sholtar I've made some changes that will hopefully make things clearer. Basically craniates = vertebrates + hagfish; so chordates = craniates + tunicates + cephalochordates. However the exclusion of hagfish from the vertebrates is controversial, as much recent evidence suggests that hagfish are descended from vertebrates, but have lost their spines due to degeneracy. --Jules (Mrjulesd) 17:58, 13 March 2017 (UTC)

Pigment & Differential Biology[edit]

There are some soft constraints that separate Chordata from other biological lineages, but have not yet been made part of the formal definition.

  • Pigmentation : Chordata are not capable of blue pigmentation, that is to say blue skin pigmentation. Blue skin pigmentation is not to be confused with the biological alteration of (for example) feathers in birds -- that appear blue via an evolved prism mechanism in the feather structure.

There still is a lot of differential (DNA sequence based) comparison research going on that is trying to separate out the simplest forms of chordata. As around 90% of the species on Earth don't have a backbone like chordata. Some of these species may have lost their chordata like structures over time and this complication continues to complicate the complete definition of Chordata. Eyreland (talk) 03:04, 10 September 2016 (UTC)

What about blue skinned frogs, blue skinned monkeys like mandrills, blue skinned wattles on turkeys and cassowaries and blue fish? Are none of those pigmented? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 09:14, 6 February 2017 (UTC)

Good point, I have removed it as unsourced, and contradicted by many creatures. --Jules (Mrjulesd) 02:20, 13 March 2017 (UTC)