2012-13 Catalog

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Offering Description

Vertebrate Evolution


Fall 2012, Winter 2013 and Spring 2013 quarters

Heather Heying biology, anthropology , Jennifer Calkins (F) biology, animal studies, literature
Fields of Study
biology, environmental studies, philosophy of science and zoology
Preparatory for studies or careers in
biology, veterinary medicine, health-related fields and evolutionary biology.
At least one quarter each of college-level biology and college-level writing.

Evolution provides an explanation for the extraordinary biological diversity on this planet. In this program, we will focus on macroevolutionary 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 an historical science such as evolution? We will investigate questions that may seem simple at first--What is a species?--but turn out to have myriad, conflicting answers. This complexity, and our attempts to discern the pattern in that complexity, will be our focus.

We will use the vertebrates as our model with which to study evolution, reviewing the morphological and genomic history and diversity of this clade. 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.  This vertebrate diversification involved genomic innovation, particularly that involving the variation in the regulation of gene expression and regular bouts of gene duplication and diversification.

Classroom work will include workshops and lectures in which active participation by all students will facilitate an enriching learning community. The labs will involve studying the focal traits of the primary two approaches to studying vertebrate evolution: morphological and molecular.

In the wet lab, we will study the comparative anatomy of vertebrate skulls and skeletons, and dissect cats and sharks. We will also sequence genes and portions of the genome of various vertebrates.  In the computer lab, we will use analyze our genomic data.  We will combine our morphological and molecular investigations using software designed for systematic character analysis and for testing the pattern of selection across traits.  Using this software, students will generate and analyze molecular and morphological datasets. There will be two multi-day field trips. Students will present short lectures on topics in genomics, molecular evolution, anatomy or physiology (e.g. circulatory system, musclephysiology). 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 talk.

Academic Website
Online Learning
Enhanced Online Learning
Greener Store
Required Fees
Fall $225/ Winter $10/ Spring $200 for entrance fees and overnight field trips.
Upper Division Science Credit
Up to 44 upper-division science credits may be granted for upper-division work.
Offered During

Program Revisions

Date Revision
February 6th, 2013 Spring fees have increased to $200.
December 31st, 2012 Winter fees have been reduced to $10.
December 5th, 2012 Jen Calkins is teaching Integrative Evolution (...Evolution is for the Birds) in winter quarter.
May 15th, 2012 Description and fall fees updated.
April 23rd, 2012 Jen Calkins has joined the teaching team.