Learning outcomes of the course unit
Students will learn the “vertebrate story,” and in doing so will not only gain an understanding of vertebrate form and function in an evolutionary and ecological context, but will also learn how to think in a more conceptual, scientific, and comparative manner. GOALS: The goals of this course are simple: 1) To learn about and gain an appreciation for vertebrate diversity, 2) To set forth the basic structure of vertebrates, 3) To discuss the functional morphology of anatomical systems, 4) To relate form to function in an ecological context, and thus 5) To discuss the major adaptive changes in vertebrate evolution. Students will be encouraged to think critically about how organisms work and how vertebrates might have evolved their remarkable and complex adaptations.
Students must have a strong background in general zoology: animal reproduction, theory of evolution, speciation and systematics.
Course contents summary
The course will describe the evolution of Vertebrates from their appearance on Earth, with an outline to present problems about their conservation. Basically, it will examine the natural history and morpho-physiological characteristics of each major group, i.e. their general adaptations and their transformation in relation to environmental modifications, other creatures, and the interference caused by human activity.The lecture course will focus on the morphological, ecological, behavioral and physiological diversity within an evolutionary perspective. Major topics will include phylogenetic hypotheses of relationships, comparative anatomy, functional morphology, natural history, and biogeography of fossil and living vertebrates.
During the first class, information about the program, the aims of the Course and the examination methods will be proved. Information on the teaching materials available for the students as well as a list of suggested text books will be provided.CLASSIFICATION AND EVOLUTION OF VERTEBRATES: history, classification, systematic phylogenetics, evolutionary hypotheses. DD: Knowledge and understanding skills, ability to learn, communicative skills.RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN VERTEBRATES AND BASIC STRUCTURE: what is a vertebrate, basic structure. DD: Knowledge and understanding skills, learning abilities, communicative skills.THE FIRST VERTEBRATES: jawless vertebrates and the origin of jawed vertebrate, evolution of the vertebrates in the Paleozoic. DD: Knowledge and understanding skills, ability to learn, making judgments.NON AMNIOTIC VERTEBRATES - FISHES AND ANPHIBIANS: Adaptations to life in water. DD: Knowledge and understanding skills, ability to learn.THE RADIATION OF CARTILAGINOUS FISH: the diversification of the chondrichthyes, the elasmobranch and the current batoidea. DD: Knowledge and understanding skills, ability to learn, making judgments.DOMINATING LIFE IN WATER: THE MAJOR RADIATION OF FISHES: The Origin and evolution of Bony Fishes, Actinopterygii and Sarcopterygii. DD: Knowledge and understanding skills, ability to learn, making judgments.LIVING ON LAND: Support and Locomotion, Eating, Reproduction, Breathing, Conserving Water in a Dry Environment Controlling Body Temperature in a Changing Environment. DD: Knowledge and understanding skills, ability to learn, making judgments.ORIGIN AND RADIATION OF TETRAPODS Tetrapod Origins, Radiation and Diversity of Non-Amniotic Paleozoic Tetrapods, Amniotes. DD: Knowledge and understanding skills, ability to learn, making judgments.SALAMANDERS, ANURANS, AND CAECILIANS. DD: Knowledge and understanding skills, ability to learn.SYNAPSIDS AND SAUROPSIDS: two Approaches to Terrestrial Life. DD: Knowledge and understanding skills, ability to learn, making judgments.TURTLES: structures, functions, and behavioral biology. DD: Knowledge and understanding skills, ability to learnTHE LEPIDOSAURS: Tuatara, Lizards, and Snakes, radiation and evolution, behavioral ecology. DD: Knowledge and understanding skills, ability to learn, making judgments.THE MESOZOIC FAUNA: Mesozoic Diapsids: Dinosaurs, Crocodilians, Birds, and Others, ectothermy. . DD: Knowledge and understanding skills, ability to learn, making judgments.BIRDS AND AVIAN SPECIALIZATION: structures, wings and flight, nutrition, behavioral ecology. DD: Knowledge and understanding skills, ability to learn, making judgments.THE SYNAPSIDA AND THE EVOLUTION OF MAMMALS: from the Mesozoic radiation to the Cenozoic. DD: Knowledge and understanding skills, ability to learn.MAMMALS DIVERSITY, CHARACTERISTICS AND SPECIALIZATION: endothermy, behavioral ecology and sociality. DD: Knowledge and understanding skills, ability to learn.PRACTICAL LABORATORIES:Practical exercises include fish dissection, bird recognition in the field, visit to the natural history museum. DD: Knowledge and understanding; Applying knowledge and understanding; Making judgements; Communication skills; Learning skills
Vertebrate Life (9th edition) by Pough, Janis, and Heiser -Pearson ed.
The lectures take place illustrating general concepts that are detailed with examples of animal taxa. The lectures are held using PowerPoint presentations that are made available to students on the ELLY site. Practical exercises include fish dissection, bird recognition in the field, visit to the natural history museum.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the teaching includes lessons in mixed mode (frontal lessons for students in presence and simultaneously in live streaming on the electronic platform of the university. The recording of the lessons will be available on Elly for the three days following the lesson.
Assessment methods and criteria
After taking this course, a student should be able to: 1. Apply the scientific and comparative methods to the study of vertebrates. 2. Recognize the basic structures and organization of the vertebrate body. 3. Know and use the basic terminology used in discussion of vertebrate zoology. 4. Know the theory, mechanisms, outcomes, and history of vertebrate evolution. 5. Analyze and compare vertebrate form and function in an ecological and evolutionary context. 6. Discuss different classification, taxonomic, and systematic approaches used in vertebrate zoology. 7. Identify the major vertebrate groups. Written examination (1-hour time available) (consisting of 10 multiple choice questions, 1 point for each correct answer and 2 open questions, from 0 to 10 point each for clarity, synthesis, completeness, correctness, relevance). Aims: to verify the capacity of the student to tackle problems of zoology using the methodological principles and knowledge acquired during the course; to evaluate the student's ability to carry out cross-links between the various topics covered during the Course.
In case of prolonged health emergency due to the COVID pandemic, oral exam will be carried on.
Information on the content of the course (see below) are associated with the relative "Dublin Indicators" (DD) that characterize their purposes.
- Knowledge and understanding;
- Applying knowledge and understanding;
- Making judgements;
- Communication skills;
- Learning skills.