Catalog: Fall 2007 - Spring 2008

2007-08 Catalog: V

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Vertebrate Evolution

Spring quarter

Faculty: Heather Heying (evolutionary biology)

Major areas of study include evolutionary biology, vertebrate zoology, comparative anatomy and philosophy of science.

Class Standing: Juniors or seniors; transfer students welcome.

Prerequisites: One year of college-level biology, preferably two.

Evolution provides an explanation for the extraordinary biological diversity on this planet. In this program, we will focus on macro evolutionary processes-specifically speciation and the evidence it leaves behind. In doing so, we will address several philosophical questions including: How do we make claims of knowledge in a historical science such as evolution? We will investigate questions that initially seem simple-for example "What is a species? "-but turn out to have myriad, conflicting answers. It is this complexity, and our attempts as scientists to discern the pattern in that complexity, that will be our focus.

We will use vertebrates as our model to study evolution. Innovations have marked the history of vertebrates, including the origins of cartilage, bone, brains, endothermy and the amniotic egg, which allowed for the invasion of terrestrial habitats. The transformation of existing structures to take on new functions has been another notable feature of vertebrate evolution: from swim bladder into lungs, hands into wings, and scales into both feathers and hair. In the second half of the quarter, we will review the history and diversity of vertebrates.

Classroom work will include workshops and lectures in which active participation by all students will improve the learning community for all. In the wet lab, we will study the comparative anatomy of vertebrate skulls and skeletons, and dissect cats and salamanders. In the computer lab, we will use software designed for systematic character analysis, and students will generate and analyze morphological datasets. Students will present short lectures on topics in anatomy or physiology (e. g. circulatory system, muscle physiology). Students will also conduct extensive research on a current, unresolved topic in vertebrate evolution, and will present that research in both a paper and a poster. In the final week of the quarter, we will go on a multi-day field trip.

Total: 16 credits.

Enrollment: 25

Special Expenses: Approximately $130 for four-day field trip to Oregon and $50 lab specimen fee.

Program is preparatory for careers and future studies in vertebrate zoology, veterinary medicine and evolutionary biology. Upper-division science credit will be awarded.

This program is also listed under Environmental Studies.

A similar program is expected to be offered in spring 2010.