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Biology 3326 Vertebrate Design: Evolution and Function

Summary: Biology 3326
Vertebrate Design: Evolution and Function
In contrast to products of human design, which are often designed from scratch to serve a specific
function, "design" of organisms is through natural selection for function acting on existing structures.
Vertebrate morphology thus depends on evolutionary history as well as on current function. We will
spend the first half of the semester reviewing evolutionary history, emphasizing evolutionary changes in
basic body components - limbs, skulls, gills, lungs, etc. - shared by broad groups of vertebrates.
Because these characteristics also form the basis for classifying vertebrates, this will also serve as an
overview of vertebrate systematics. The second half of the class will look at vertebrate morphology in a
very different way - as adaptations to particular ways of moving and feeding, i.e. functional morphology.
For example, adaptation to fast swimming results in a typical body form that is seen in several
evolutionary lineages e.g. tunas, dolphins, ichthyosaurs, and sharks, (you'll meet them in the first part
of the class) - so that they all look alike even though they come from teleost fish, chondrichyan,
mammalian, and "reptile" lineages. We will cover the basic physics of moving in fluids (water and air)
and on land, then look at how animals have adapted to swimming, flying, running, jumping, and
burrowing, including the trade-offs resulting from improving one aspect of performance at some cost to
other aspects.
Time: Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10:30 - 11:30 in LSC 338
Text: No single text covers both phylogeny and functional morphology well, so there is no mandatory
text for this class. The optional text that covers vertebrate history and general biology extremely well is


Source: Adl, Sina - Department of Biology, Dalhousie University


Collections: Environmental Sciences and Ecology