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Definition of CHORDATE
: any of a phylum (Chordata) of animals having at least at some stage of development a notochord, dorsally situated central nervous system, and gill clefts and including the vertebrates, lancelets, and tunicates
Any member of the phylum Chordata, which includes the most highly evolved animals, the vertebrates, as well as the marine invertebrate cephalochordates (seeamphioxus) and tunicates. All chordates, at some time in their life cycle, possess a dorsal supporting rod (notochord), gill slits, and a dorsal nerve cord. Unlike vertebrates, tunicates and cephalochordates lack any kind of brain or skeleton. Chordate bodies consist of a body wall encasing a gut, with a space between called the coelom. The body is usually long and bilaterally symmetrical, with the mouth and sense organs at the front end.