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Hemichordata(hĕmĭkôr'dā`tə), small phylum of marine invertebrates closely related to both the echinoderms (phylum EchinodermataEchinodermata
[Gr.,=spiny skin], phylum of exclusively marine bottom-dwelling invertebrates having external skeletons of calcareous plates just beneath the skin. The plates may be solidly fused together, as in sea urchins, loosely articulated to facilitate movement, as in sea
..... Click the link for more information. ) and chordates (phylum ChordataChordata
, phylum of animals having a notochord, or dorsal stiffening rod, as the chief internal skeletal support at some stage of their development. Most chordates are vertebrates (animals with backbones), but the phylum also includes some small marine invertebrate animals.
..... Click the link for more information. ). 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.
a phylum of bottom-dwelling marine invertebrates of the group Deuterostomata. The Hemichordata were previously considered a subphylum of Chordata because of the presence of a chordlike organ (notochord), the dorsal location of the nerve stem, the development of gill slits, and several similar features of embryonic development. However, unlike the chordates, hemichordates have a three-segmented body consisting of a proboscis, collar cavities, and trunk cavities. Modern-day hemichordates are the Enteropneusta and Pterobranchia; fossil representatives include the graptolites.