22 Major Difference between Chordates and Non-Chordates with Table

What is the difference between chordates and non-chordates?

Kingdom Animalia is further divided into certain phyla and classes. An organism that belongs to this kingdom has different patterns of cell organization. This helps to tell the difference between a lower organism and higher organisms.

The core difference between chordates and non-chordates is that chordates are animals that have a backbone in their body structures while non-chordates are animals without backbones or notochords.

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Difference between Chordates and Non-Chordates

What Are Chordates?

Chordates are animals with chords or backbone in their body structures. There are about 49,000 species of animals with backbones.

The body size of chordates tends to vary in size of either medium or large. These organisms tend to occupy a large ecological niche.

These organisms can be found on land, marine water, freshwater, and in the air. They can either be cold-blooded or warm-blooded animals.

What are Non-Chordates?

Non-chordates are animals that lack backbone or notochords. These organisms tend to lack developed body systems such as reproduction and digestive systems.

Examples of animals without notochords are Porifera, Ctenophora, Platyhelminthes, Aschelminthes, Coelenterata (Cnidaria), Annelida, Arthropoda, Mollusca, and Echinodermata.

Comparison Chart: Chordates vs Non-Chordates

Basic Terms Chordates Non-Chordates
MeaningThese are organisms with backbonesThese are organisms without backbones
RespirationThrough gills or lungsThrough the body surface, gills, or tracheae
Body temperatureEither cold or warm-bloodedOnly cold-blooded
NotochordTend to be present at some stage and get replaced by backboneLack of both notochord and backbone
Nervous systemTend to have a hollow central dorsal nervous systemTend to have a solid central nervous system
Germ LayersTriploblasticEither diploblastic or triploblastic
HemoglobinPresent in the red corpuscles (RBC)Present in the plasma
CoelomTruly coelomateEither acoelomate, pseudocoelomate, or truly coelomate
SymmetryBilateralIt May be radial, biradial, bilateral or lacking
MetamerismHave true MetamerismHave pseudo metamerism
Post-Anal TailPresentAbsent
OrganizationWell-developed organs and systemsLack of developing organ system
BrainTend to be dorsal to pharynx in the headAbsent or above the pharynx if present
LimbsDerived from several segmentsDerived from the same segment
Gut PositionVentral to the nerve cordDorsal to the nerve cord
AnusOpen before the last segmentOpen on the last segment
Pharyngeal Gill-SlitsAre present at some stageAbsent
Blood Vascular SystemHave a closed vascular systemHave open vascular system if present
HeartVentrally placedDorsally or lateral if present
Nerve CordTend to be single and dorsal without ganglia.Tend to be double and ventral usually bearing ganglia
Regeneration PowerTend to be poorTend to be good
SkeletonHave both endoskeleton and exoskeletonHave exoskeleton only
ExamplesHemichordata, Cyclostomata, Reptiles, Amphibia, Aves, and MammalsProtozoa, Arthropods, Annelids,

Core Differences between Chordates and Non-Chordates In Point Form

  1. Chordates have chord or backbone while non-chordates lack backbone
  2. Chordates have a hollow central dorsal nervous system whereas non-chordates have a solid central nervous system.
  3. Chordates have either cold or warm-blooded while non-chordates are cold-blooded
  4. Chordates respire through lungs or gills while non-chordates respire through the body surface and gills
  5. Chordates have a germ layer while non-chordates lack a germ layer
  6. Chordates have hemoglobin present in the red blood cells while non-chordates present in the plasma
  7. Chordates have true coelomate while non-chordates have either acoelomate, pseudocoelomate, or truly coelomate.
  8. Chordates have bilateral symmetry while non-chordates may be radial, biradial, and bilateral.
  9. Chordates have true metamerism while non-chordates have pseudo metamerism
  10. Post anal tail is present in chordates while absent in non-chordates
  11. Chordates have a well-developed organ system while non-chordates have a poorly developed organ system
  12. The brain of chordates are dorsal to the pharynx in the head while absent in non-chordates
  13. Chordates derived their limbs from several segments while non-chordates from the same segment
  14. The gut position of chordates is ventral to the nerve cord while that of non-chordates is dorsal to the nerve cord
  15. The anus of chordates is differentiated and opens before the last segment while that of non-chordates opens on the last segment
  16. Pharyngeal gill slits are present in chordates while absent in non-chordates
  17. Chordates have closed vascular system while non-chordates have both open and closed
  18. Chordates have ventrally placed heart while non-chordates have a dorsal or lateral placed heart if present
  19. The nerve cord of chordates are single and dorsal while that of non-chordates are double and ventral
  20. The regeneration power of chordates are poor while that of non-chordate are good
  21. Chordates have both exoskeletons and endoskeletons while non-chordates have the only exoskeleton
  22. Examples of chordates are Hemichordata, Cyclostomata, Reptiles, Amphibia, Aves, and Mammals while those of non-chordates are Protozoa, Arthropods, and Annelids.

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Comparison Video


Chordates are animals marked by the presence of backbone while non-chordates are animals without backbone or notochord. Chordates are animals with both endoskeleton and exoskeleton while non-chordates have only exoskeleton

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