Miscellaneous Chordates

The Chordates of the Sonoran Desert marine environment are very important to the ecosystem.

Here are some of their characteristics:

  • Single hollow nerve cord
  • Notochord
  • Pharyngeal Slits (gill slits)
  • Post anal tails

Some of the most common Chordates are:

Shore Birds

  • Osprey – Fish hawk, has a wing span of 4 and ½ to 6 feet, plunges feet first to grab fish
  • Brown Pelican – Can spot a fish from 35 feet in the air and dive for it, bill can filter water
  • Terns – dive head first into the water to catch fish
  • Great Blue heron – 3 feet tail with a wingspan of 6 feet, stands motionless waiting for fish to swim by
  • Gulls – most abundant bird onshore, garbage collectors, don’t dive
  • Least sandpiper – feeds along the water line in the mud and sand, in the tide flats and esteros in the winter


  • Porpoises: Small and shy, have a rounded snout and triangular dorsal fin, rarely seen

o               Phocoena sinus – Gulf of California Harbor porpoise

  • Dolphins: very commonly seen, more elongated snout, sickle shaped dorsal fin

o                     Pacific bottlenose – over 1,000 lbs, dark gray on top, white below, with lighter gray on it’s size

o                    Common dolphins – 200-300 olbs, dark back with yellow and white on its sides

o                   Orcas: 25 feet long, black on top, white on the bottom

  • Whales:

o                    Fin whale: 80 feet long, small dorsal fin

o                    Gray Whale: 40 feet long, dark colored with many barnacles on its body

o                    Humpback whale – 45 feet long, dorsal fin, far back on dorsal side


Sea lions

  • California sea lion

o                 Difference between seals and sea lions

§                   Sea lions: Can balance on their front flippers

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