The notochord (Fig. 1) consists of a rod of cells situated on the ventral aspect of the neural tube; it constitutes the foundation of the axial skeleton, since around it the segments of the vertebral column are formed. Its appearance synchronizes with that of the neural tube. On the ventral aspect of the neural groove an axial thickening of the entoderm takes place; this thickening assumes the appearance of a furrow—the chordal furrow—the margins of which come into contact, and so convert it into a solid rod of cells—the notochord—which is then separated from the entoderm. It extends throughout the entire length of the future vertebral column, and reaches as far as the anterior end of the mid-brain, where it ends in a hook-like extremity in the region of the future dorsum sellæ of the sphenoid bone. It lies at first between the neural tube and the entoderm of the yolk-sac, but soon becomes separated from them by the mesoderm, which grows medial-ward and surrounds it. From the mesoderm surrounding the neural tube and notochord, the skull and vertebral column, and the membranes of the brain and medulla spinalis are developed.
From: Gray, Henry. Anatomy of the Human Body. Philadelphia: Lea & Febiger, 1918; Bartleby.com, 2000. www.bartleby.com/107/.