Chordates are animals possessing a notochord, a hollow dorsal nerve cord, pharyngeal slits, an endostyle, and a post-anal tail for at least some period of their life cycles. Taxonomically, the phylum includes the subphyla Vertebrata, including mammals, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds; Tunicata, including salps and sea squirts; and Cephalochordata, comprising the lancelets. Members of the phylum Chordata are bilaterally symmetric, deuterostome coelomates, and the vertebrate Chordates display segmentation.


The phylum Hemichordata including the acorn worms has been presented as a fourth chordate subphylum, but it now is usually treated as a separate phylum. It, along with the phylum Echinodermata, including starfish, sea urchins, and sea cucumbers and their kin, are the chordates' closest relatives. Primitive chordates are known from at least as early as the Cambrian explosion

There are more than 75,000 living species of chordates, about half of which are bony fish of the class osteichthyes. Both the world's largest and fastest animal, the blue whale and peregrine falcon respectively, are chordates, as are humans.