BI2BN4-Vertebrate Zoology - Structure, Form and Function

Module Provider: School of Biological Sciences
Number of credits: 10 [5 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Autumn term module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Module version for: 2014/5

Module Convenor: Dr Graham Luke


Summary module description:
This module incorporates aspects of traditional comparative zoology with the modern field of evolutionary-developmental biology and palaeontology. Within this remit, students will undertake a broad and in places detailed look at the morphology of a wide range of vertebrates. The module focuses heavily on the evolution of crucial and defining adaptive features (both morphological and physiological) in non-mammalian vertebrates, and considers the factors that have led to the diversity of vertebrates that exist today, and the demise of those that lived in previous epochs. Observational and deductive skills are an important part of this module.

1. To provide a grounding in, and overview of, the multidisciplinary nature of zoology in the 21st century (in particular the relevance of palaeontology, zoogeography, phylogenetics and developmental biology to traditional comparative morphological zoology).

2. To provide students with an account of the zoology of the vertebrates, viz. (i) The organisation of the main vertebrate taxa. (ii) An outline of vertebrate evolution from its Chordate ancestry, (iii) A study of selected adaptations of vertebrates to their ways of life.

3. To give students a wider appreciation of the complexity and diversity of vertebrate morphology and physiology, and the exquisite nature of their adaptations to their life styles and their environments.

NB. This course will complement the Birds: Diversity, Behaviour and Conservation module BI2EY5, the Animal, Plant and Microbial Development module BI2BG5 and also serve as a useful introduction to the third year module Palaeozoology BI3EAB8. It is a prerequisite for module BI2BS5 (Vertebrate Zoology II).

Assessable learning outcomes:
By the end of the course, it is expected that students will be able to describe and explain:
1. The main morphological and physiological features used in vertebrate classification.
2. The evolutionary history of the main vertebrate taxa.
3. The key morphological and physiological adaptations of vertebrates to life in water, on land and in the air
4. The general anatomical organisation of chordates and vertebrates.
5. Selected examples of vertebrate adaptive radiations;
Also students will:
6. Have developed observational and deductive skills associated with investigating and recording vertebrate structure/function by observation, dissection, and accurate drawing and note-taking.

Additional outcomes:
Students will have the opportunity to:-
1. Gain experience of teamwork and the need to delegate within a team.
2. Practise the skills associated with library information retrieval, gaining information from the WWW and journals.
3. Understand the importance of time management in a practical setting.
4. Develop evaluative skills in considering the effectiveness of written and graphical content as communication tools.

Outline content:
Lectures will cover the defining features, origin, organisation, evolution and radiation of the major groups of non-mammalian vertebrates. In this context, the biology of dinosaurs, other extinct vertebrates, and the evolution of birds will be covered. Underlying themes of the course will be:-

1. The relationship between, and the evolution of, morphological form and function within vertebrate taxa (especially in regard to locomotion, feeding and respiration, and the water/land/air transitions).
2. The contrast between the different morphological and physiological adaptations and strategies employed by different taxa (e.g. ectothermy contrasted with endothermy).
3. The relationship and relevance of other disciplines to zoology (e.g. developmental biology, evolution, palaeontology, behavioural biology, geology).

Examination of preserved specimens from the Cole Museum and practical class dissections of specimens comprise almost 50% of the formal teaching of this module, and thus are an integral part of this course.

Students will be expected to read relevant chapters of the recommended text by Pough et al ("Vertebrate Life" 10th Edition) and other texts.
Excellent books to read to supplement the recommended text, and as a background/introduction to this module are “The Evolution of Vertebrate Design” by L.B. Radinsky, 1987 and the material covering vertebrates in "Integrative Animal Biology" by Fenton, Campbell, Dumont and Owen, 2014.

Students are encouraged to visit the Natural History Museum in Oxford during the course.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:
There will be one or two 50 minute lectures each week. Students are expected to learn from directed reading allied to the topics covered in lectures. Practical classes will comprise observation and dissections (of fish and bird), and handling of preserved specimens.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 16
Practicals classes and workshops 13
Guided independent study 71
Total hours by term 100.00
Total hours for module 100.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written exam 50
Report 50

Other information on summative assessment:
Practical report books form the basis of in-course assessment. Crucial factors in this assessment are: the accuracy and depth of observations, answers to set questions, effectiveness of written and graphical content communication skills and the overall usefulness of the notebooks in terms of an aide memoire for revision purposes.

Formative assessment methods:
The first practical class is formatively assessed. Lab books from this class are handed in a few days after the practical and marked and returned in time for the second class. This is to give sudents an understanding of the standard and style of work that is acceptable.

Penalties for late submission:
The Module Convener will apply the following penalties for work submitted late, in accordance with the University policy.

  • where the piece of work is submitted up to one calendar week after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): 10% of the total marks available for the piece of work will be deducted from the mark for each working day (or part thereof) following the deadline up to a total of five working days;
  • where the piece of work is submitted more than five working days after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): a mark of zero will be recorded.

  • The University policy statement on penalties for late submission can be found at:
    You are strongly advised to ensure that coursework is submitted by the relevant deadline. You should note that it is advisable to submit work in an unfinished state rather than to fail to submit any work.

    Length of examination:
    A one-and-a-half hour examination requiring answers to two questions out of four - one being compulsory (true/false statements and correcting errors).

    Requirements for a pass:
    A mark of 40% overall

    Reassessment arrangements:
    Re-examination in August/September

    Last updated: 5 February 2015

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