Module Identifier BS22410  
Academic Year 2004/2005  
Co-ordinator Dr Peter M Brophy  
Semester Semester 2  
Other staff Professor John Hinchliffe, Dr Joanne V Hamilton, Dr Peter M Brophy, Dr Richard B Kemp, Dr Robert J Wootton  
Pre-Requisite BS11410  
Course delivery Lecture   18 Hours  
  Practical   16 Hours (4 x 4 hours)  
Assessment TypeAssessment Length/DetailsProportion
Semester Exam2 Hours One 2-hour theory paper  70%
Semester Assessment Practical Exercise: Assessed dissections and interpretation of practicals  30%
Supplementary Assessment2 Hours One 2-hour theory paper (plus resubmission of failed coursework or an alternative)   

Learning outcomes

On completion of the module students will


The module will provide the student via a series of integrated lectures and practical sessions an understanding of the comparative structure and function of the main organ systems in vertebrates.


The module starts with an evaluation of the hypotheses that attempt to clarify the origin of chordates and the evolution of jaws with paired fins. From this platform, the evolution of the first tetrapod is examined with particular reference to the fin to limb transition and the appearance of the first terrestrial tetrapods. The problems involved in this aquatic-terrestrial transition such as respiration, dessication & locomotion are also discussed.

Subsequently, an organ systems approach is applied to investigate the vertebrates. This strategy allows the understanding of evolutionary changes arising in organ systems, while the module also enforces the importance of the integration of organ system function to the animal as a whole. All vertebrates have common characteristics, and by studying the modification of these basic features, the student will track the progress of vertebrate evolution, and the behaviour of living vertebrate species.

The systems lectures start with an introduction of histology, reviewing the basic chemistry and physics of the cells that are needed for the fixation and wax sectioning of tissues. The reasons why stains are useful research tools and the distinction between histological and histochemical stains are also described. This lecture block continues with a review of vertebrate tissues and integuments, incorporating four tissue-types - epithelial, connective, nervous and muscle.

The next set of lectures deals with the problem of osmoregulation, in water and land, and assesses the different solutions used by vertebrate groups e.g. special osmo-regulatory systems, structure, mode of action (salt gland, rectal gland, gill epithelium, skin and bladder). The evolution of the kidney, and the structure and function of nephron are examined, as is the evolution of the nephron types for freshwater, seawater and land. The final topic in this session assesses nephron functioning in the embryo.

The anatomy and physiology of both respiration and circulation are examined in fish (physical principles, structure of gills, counter-current principle, single circulatory system) and also in tetrapods e.g. structure of lungs, evolution of double circulation from lungfish to mammals, including aortic arches and heart. Locomotion is considered in aquatic and terrestrial environments (physical principles, modes of locomotion, ecomorphology and energy costs of locomotion in water). Flight in birds, pterosaurs & bats and the different types of wing structure and their functioning are examined as are the basic aerodynamic principles.

Vertebrate reproduction is discussed, with a review of the structure of the male and female gonads and the influence of hormones. The section outlines the different types of sex determination, and the structure of the amniotic egg and the evolution of both male and female reproductive systems.

The next topics investigated are feeding and digestion systems, starting with a comparison of feeding strategies in primitive vertebrates, and the evolution of feeding mechanisms. The structural adaptations of the vertebrate digestion system with respect to diet and symbiotic microorganisms are also reviewed. The module concludes with an evaluation of vertebrate sense organs in different classes and a detailed study of sensory systems responsible for vision and smell.

The practical sessions start with comparative vertebrate histology and an investigation of function at the microscopic level in vertebrate tissues. The other practical classes involve 'hands-on' structure-function studies (dissections) of two vertebrate 'types' - aquatic vertebrate (dogfish) and terrestrial mammalian model (mouse), and the dissections are linked to interpretation of the functioning of the heart and anterior circulatory system via diagrams illustrating system function.

Reading Lists

** Recommended Text
Kardong, K.V. (2002) Vertebrates - Comparative Anatomy, Function, Evolution 3rd. London, McGraw Hill
Walker, W.F. & Liem, K.F (1994) Functional anatomy of the vertebrates: an evolutionary perspective 2nd. London: Saunders College Publishing
** Multiple Copies In Hugh Owen
Pough, F.H., Janis, C.M. & Heiser, J.B. (2005) Vertebrate life 7th. Prentice-Hall International.


This module is at CQFW Level 5