A phylum first encountered in the Middle Cambrian Burgess Shale
, British Columbia
. The hemichordates are related to the chordates (Chordata
), for although they lack a notochord
, the gill slits are very similar to those of primitive vertebrates and the dorsal collar nerve cord
of hemichordates, which is sometimes hollow, is similar to the dorsal, hollow nerve cord
of chordates. Hemichordates are exclusively marine. The body and coelom
are divided into three sections, the middle section bearing gill slits. Development is by a tornaria larva
, indicating affinities with the Echinodermata
; the link between echinoderms and chordates is supported by biochemical evidence, all three groups containing creatine phosphate
in the muscles whereas in all other invertebrates the phosphate is a compound of arginine
. The two classes, Enteropneusta
, may not be descended from a common stock and nowadays are often ranked as separate phyla.
Hemichordata (hĕmĬkôr´dā´tə), small phylum of marine invertebrates closely related to both the echinoderms (phylum Echinodermata) and chordates (phylum Chordata). Acorn worms, class Enteropneusta, are the most common hemichordates. The body is composed of an anterior, conical proboscis, a short collar, and a long, wormlike trunk. Gill clefts in the pharynx and a hollow nerve cord in the collar suggest relationship to chordates, while the ciliated larvae are similar to those of echinoderms. Hemichordates live in burrows or under objects in shallow water and feed on detritus. Balanoglossus gigas may reach a length of nearly 5 ft (1.5 m), but most species are considerably smaller.
Also in the phylum is the class Pterobranchia, whose members are tiny deep-sea creatures that form colonies by secreting a collagenous exoskeleton. They are considered more primitive than the enteropneusts. Pterobranchs have been identified with graptolites, hemichordates of the class Graptolithina (formerly believed to be extinct) since the discovery in 1992 of a living pterobranch identical to fossil graptolites.
Hemichordata (acorn worms)
Phylum first encountered in the Middle Cambrian Burgess Shale
, British Columbia
. The acorn worms are related to the chordates
, for although they lack a notochord
, the gill slits are very similar to those of primitive vertebrates
A phylum of soft-bodied marine invertebrates that comprises two classes: the Enteropneusta (acorn worms), which are cylindrical burrowing animals; and the Pterobranchia, which are colonial forms with vase-shaped bodies. The coelom is divided into three regions and the body into three sections: proboscis, collar, and trunk; like chordates, hemichordates possess gill slits
but they lack a notochord. Some acorn worms develop via a ciliated larva (tornaria
), which has some similarities to an echinoderm larva.