OpenStax Biology 2e
Members of Cephalochordata possess a notochord, dorsal hollow tubular nerve cord, pharyngeal slits, endostyle/thyroid gland, and a post-anal tail in the adult stage. The notochord extends into the head, which gives the subphylum its name. Although the neural tube also extends into the head region, there is no well-defined brain, and the nervous system is centered around a hollow nerve cord lying above the notochord. Extinct members of this subphylum include Pikaia, which is the oldest known cephalochordate. Excellently preserved Pikaia fossils were recovered from the Burgess shales of Canada and date to the middle of the Cambrian age, making them more than 500 million years old. Its anatomy of Pikaia closely resembles that of the extant lancelet in the genus Branchiostoma.
The lancelets are named for their bladelike shape. Lancelets are only a few centimeters long and are usually found buried in sand at the bottom of warm temperate and tropical seas. Cephalochordates are suspension feeders. A water current is created by cilia in the mouth, and is filtered through oral tentacles. Water from the mouth then enters the pharyngeal slits, which filter out food particles. The filtered water collects in a gill chamber called the atrium and exits through the atriopore. Trapped food particles are caught in a stream of mucus produced by the endostyle in a ventral ciliated fold (or groove) of the pharynx and carried to the gut. Most gas exchange occurs across the body surface. Sexes are separate and gametes are released into the water through the atriopore for external fertilization.
Clark, M., Douglas, M., Choi, J. Biology 2e. Houston, Texas: OpenStax. Access for free at: https://openstax.org/details/books/biology-2e