Learning outcomes of the course unit
This Module of General Zoology is designed to provide the bases for addressing the study of animal biology that will be detailed in the second part of the year (cfr. the Course of Systematic Zoology) and in the subsequent years. The approach to dealing with the different topics of General Zoology is evolutionary-adaptive and space will be given also to the organization and structure of animals, in addition to the morpho-functional systems of the main Taxa. These matters are a valuable cultural bridge connecting this course to those of the following years and that will deal with different aspects of animal biology.
Finally, the Course is also aimed to provide the students with a first approach to methods and scopes of scientific research with particular emphasis to Zoology.
Course contents summary
The course of General Zoology provides the basic elements of animal biology with particular emphasis to morpho-functional, ecological and evolutionary aspects.
The Course is also aimed to provide general information on the scientific method and basic methodology of zoological research.
AN INTRODUCTION TO THE STUDY OF ANIMAL BIOLOGY. The study of Life. The unifying themes of Life Sciences. Zoology as a part of Biology. Zoology as a scientific process.
THE CHEMISTRY OF LIFE: General principles. The water. Organic compounds. Carbohydrates. Lipids. Proteins. Enzymes. Nucleic Acids.
THE ORIGIN OF LIFE: The pre-biotic world. From the molecules to the organisms. The emergence of eukaryotes. The origin and evolution of animals.
THE CELL: The concept of cell. The cellular organization. The prokaryotic and eukaryotic cell. Properties and features of animal cell. Structure and function of nucleus and cytoplasmatic organelles. Biological membranes. The cell cycle. Cell division. Mitosis. Meiosis and gametogenesis. Sexual life cycles.
INFORMATION AND HEREDITY (Basic concepts): Chromosomic bases of heredity. Molecular bases of heredity. DNA as the seat of genetic information. DNA duplication. The long way from genotype to phenotype, the first step: the synthesis of polypeptides.
EVOLUTION: The idea of evolution: historical background. The theory of Darwin and evidences supporting it. The meaning of “theory” in the scientific thinking. The evolution of populations and the forces of evolution. Microevolution. Speciation and mechanism of reproductive isolation. Macroevolution.
ELEMENTS of ANIMAL CLASSIFICATION AND PHYLOGENY: Criteria of classification. Taxonomic nomenclature. Systematic categories. Phylogenetic position and main features of the main animal Taxa.
THE FORM AND THE FUNCTION IN ANIMALS. A) The architecture of animal body: Hierarchical organization of animal complexity. Structural models of the body. Symmetry. Body cavities. Metamery. Cephalisation. Homology and Analogy. B) Some basic concepts on how the animal machinery works: An introduction to the basic processes of maintenance and homeostasis.
REPRODUCTION AND DEVELOPMENT: Asexual reproduction. Sexual reproduction. Conjugation in Ciliates. Evolution of sexuality. Fertilization. Amphigony and Parthenogenesis. Primary and secondary sexual characters. Sexual dimorphism. Gonochorism and hermaphroditism. Metagenesis, neoteny, heterogony. Embryonic and post-embryonic development. Metamorphosis.
BASIC CONCEPTS OF ANIMAL ECOLOGY. a) An introduction to animal ecology; b) interactions among organisms: trophic webs, predation and competition. Symbioses. Mutualism, Commensalism, Parasitism; c) Mimicry. Cryptic and Faneric mimicry. Warning coloration. Batesian mimicry, Muellerian mimicry, Mertensian mimicry. Aggressive mimicry. Intraspecific mimicry.
ANIMAL BEHAVIOUR: an introduction to Ethology. The behaviour as adaptation and phenotypic expression. Reflex actions and complex behaviours. From genes to behaviour. Learning. Behavioural ecology. Communication and social behaviour. Reproduction and sexual selection. Reproductive strategies. Mating systems and parental cares.
Slides, scientific articles, links to specific web sites available to the
students on the web site of the Course.
CAMPBELL – BIOLOGIA E GENETICA di Reece et al., Pearson (2015)
CAMPBELL – MECCANISMI DELL’EVOLUZIONE E ORIGINI DELLA DIVERSITÁ, di Reece et al., Pearson (2015)
CAMPBELL – LA FORMA E LA FUNZIONE NEGLI ANIMALI, di Reece et al., Pearson (2015)
Lectures made using also multimedia tools on the classical topics of general Zoology. Analysis of case studies for a better understanding of the principles and the experimental methods used in the field of animal biology.
Assessment methods and criteria
Written examination aimed to: verify the capacity of the student to tackle problems of of zoology using the methodological principles and knowledge acquired during the course; evaluate the student's ability to carry out cross-links between the various topics covered during the Course.