The organisms belonging to the Protochordata are generally known as the lower chordates. They don’t form a “proper” taxonomic group and are only classified as such for convenience purposes. However, they do form a major group of Chordata. They are also known as Acraniata because they lack a true skull. They are divided into two subphyla- Urochordata, Cephalochordata.

Characteristics of Protochordata

  1. They are generally found in marine water.
  2. Their body is bilaterally symmetrical, triploblastic, and coelomated.
  3. At a certain stage of their lives, their body develops a long, rod-like structure for support called the notochord.
  4. They exhibit organ system level of organization.

E.g., Herdmania, Amphioxus.

Classifications of Protochordata

Urochordata or Tunicata

  • They are found in the marine environment.
  • They are sessile and filter-feeders.
  • They are also known as tunicates because their body is surrounded by a leathery sheath composed of tunicin (cellulose).
  • The notochord appears in the larval stage in the tail of the larva and disappears in the adult. This is known as retrogressive metamorphosis.
  • The neural tube in the larva is replaced by a dorsal ganglion in the adults.
  • Respiration occurs through gills.
  • They have an open circulatory system.
  • The excretory organs are absent.
  • They reproduce asexually by budding.

E.g., Herdmania, Selpa


  • They are marine and filter-feeders.
  • The notochords remain throughout life and extend up to the head region.
  • The nerve cord and the tail also remain throughout life.
  • Solenocytes are the excretory organs.
  • They respire through gills which open in the atrium.
  • The body wall comprises myotomes.

E.g., Amphioxus

Also check: Blood Vascular System of Branchiostoma

Learn more in detail about Protochordata, its features, classifications and other related topics at BYJU’S Biology.

Related Links

Plant Kingdom
Phylum Chordata

Frequently Asked Questions


What are Protochordates?

Protochordate is an informal category of organisms to describe the invertebrates that are closely related to vertebrates.


What are the sub-phyla of Protochordata?

Protochordata is divided into the following two sub-phyla:

  • Urochordata
  • Cephalochordata

What is the difference between Protochordates and Chordates?

Chordates include vertebrates also, whereas Protochordates include only invertebrate chordates.


Do humans have a notochord?

A notochord is the primitive beginning of the backbone found in the embryonic stage. These are only found in the organisms belonging to phylum Chordata. Humans belong to this phylum and possess a notochord at their embryonic stage.


What is the difference between a notochord and a vertebral column?

A notochord is a cartilaginous skeletal rod present at embryonic stages of chordates or in certain adult invertebrate chordates. Whereas, a vertebral column is present in higher chordates, which protects the spinal cord. In vertebrates, the notochord is replaced by the vertebral column in the adult.


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  1. it was a great lecture, its build my concept about protochordates and chordates

  2. What is the meaning of protochordates

  3. What are the morphology of protochordates