Module Identifier BS13410  
Academic Year 2007/2008  
Co-ordinator Dr Joanne V Hamilton  
Semester Semester 2  
Other staff Dr Robert J Wootton, Dr Joseph E Ironside  
Pre-Requisite Normally A or AS Biology or its equivalent.  
Course delivery Lecture   16 x 1 h lectures  
  Practical   3 x 3h practicals (duplicated)  
Assessment TypeAssessment Length/DetailsProportion
Semester Exam2 Hours Written semester examination  80%
Semester Assessment Assessed practical  20%
Supplementary Assessment2 Hours One 2 hour theory exam comprising multiple choice questions, short answer question and an essay. Resubmission of failed or missing coursework or alternative (as determined by the exam board).100%

Learning outcomes

On completion of the module the student should be able to


The module begins with a description of the basic components of vertebrate organisation. The evolutionary history of fish is discussed by reference to the jawless fishes (Agnatha), the cartilaginous fishes (Chondrichthyes) and the bony fish (Osteichthyes). The importance of the evolution of jaws is noted.

Tetrapod origins from the lobe-finned fish (Sarcopterygians) and the evolution of the first land vertebrates are explored. The general anatomy of modern amphibians (urodeles, anurans) is considered with reference to locomotion, respiration, osmoregulation and reproduction. Urodele and anuran metamorphosis is discussed together with variation in life histories, biochemical changes (excretion, haemoglobin) and hormonal control (role of thyroid, pituitary and hypothalamus).

The general characteristics of reptiles are described, emphasising the structural and reproductive adaptations which equip them for a fully terrestrial existence. The modern replies are surveyed, illustrating the major sub-divisions of the class in terms of living representatives (lizards and snakes, turtles, crocodilians). A brief evolutionary history of the group is discussed, summarising ideas on the origins and fate of some of the more important lineages.

Archaeopteryx and its significance for bird evolution is discussed, as well as the evolution of feathers, aerodynamics of flight, and the structure and physiology of modern birds with special reference to flight. Also, bird reproduction and the cleidoic egg.

The lectures conclude with a discussion of the mammals: their origins and the structural characteristics of the group. This section of the course begins with as discussion of the monotremes (egg-laying mammals) and the marsupials (pouched mammals) and their adaptive radiation and geographical distribution. Finally the placental mammals are discussed. Particular reference is made to their evolution and the mode of life of the major types: insectivores, carnivores, herbivores, aquatic mammals and primates.

Practical classes illustrate and develop the main themes of the lectures, especially through laboratory demonstrations of specimens, related video sequences, and a visit to Borth Animalarium where students can relate the material covered in lectures to living specimens. There are no dissections.   


This module comprises a series of integrated lectures and practicals on the major groups of vertebrates with emphasis on (i) the basic features of vertebrate design, (ii) diversity of body form and function, (iii) inter-relationships.

Module Skills

Reading Lists

** Recommended Text
Campbell, N. and Reece, J. (2005) Biology 7th. Benjamin Cummings Publishers
** Reference Text
Pough, F.H. et al (1996) Vertebrate life 4th. Macmillan
Young, J.Z. (1981) Life of vertebrates 3rd. Oxford University Press


This module is at CQFW Level 4