BIO270 Vertebrate Zoology

Fall 2018

Course Syllabus

Instructor: Dr. Barry K. Rhoades

106 Munroe Science Center                                                                     

Office Phone: 757-5238                                                                    

Office  hours:             Monday           9:00 - 10:00 AM

                                    Tuesday           10:00 - 11:00 AM

                                    Wednesday      9:00 - 10:00 AM

                                    Thursday          10:30 - 11:00 AM

                                    Friday              9:00 -10:00 AM     

                                    or by appointment

(I will be in my office during these times.  Feel free to drop in to my office any other time from 9:00 to 5:00 weekdays.  When I am not in my office, I am often in my lab space (MSC 101/103), in the general biology lab (MSC 128) or in the Vivarium (MSC 102).  If I can meet with you at that time I will, otherwise I will make an appointment for a future time.)



Textbook:  Kardong, K.V.  (2014) Vertebrates: Comparative Anatomy, Function, Evolution (7th Ed.). 

                   McGraw Hill.  Dubuque, Iowa.


Lab Manual: Kardong, K.V. & Zalisko, E.J. (2014)  Comparative Vertebrate Anatomy: A Laboratory

                       Dissection Guide (7th Ed.).  McGraw Hill.  Dubuque, Iowa.


Dissecting Kit:  Supplied by the biology department from lab fees


Class Meeting:  Period C (TR 1:30-2:45 PM)  MSC 101


Laboratory Meeting:  Tuesday, Periods D-E  (3:00-5:45 PM)  MSC 101


Course Description and Objectives:    Vertebrate Zoology is a four credit hour course and laboratory.  It is designed to familiarize you with the major patterns of vertebrate phylogeny, ecology, structure, and function.  This is an upper-level biology course intended primarily for students majoring in biology or a related natural science.


Course Content:  The classroom and laboratory portions of this course are designed to closely complement each other.  We will focus somewhat more strongly on the "what" questions of comparative anatomy and histology in the laboratory and more strongly on the "why" and "how" questions of vertebrate evolution, ecology, design, and function in the classroom. Gross anatomy provides not only the basis for asking these functional questions, but also much of the vocabulary for unambiguously discussing possible answers.  For this reason, the laboratory presentation of topics will often lead the classroom presentation.  In a real sense, the classroom discussions will be driven by what we see in the laboratory each week.  We will be following approximately the sequence of topics in your text and laboratory guide, but additional material and exercises will be incorporated as we go along.


Most of the laboratory exercises in the Kardong & Zalisko guide involve rather traditional dissections.  These exercises take a "systemic" (or "systematic") approach, comparing one organ system at a time in three representative vertebrates: the dogfish shark, the mudpuppy salamander, and the domestic cat.  You will work in pairs to dissect preserved specimens of each of these three animals during these exercises.  You will be instructed in how to take care of your three specimens, and it will be your responsibility to see that they last through the 16 weeks of the course.  We will be supplementing these exercises in several ways, including an initial phylogenetic survey of vertebrate diversity, several comparative histology exercises, a set of related short exercises in vertebrate design, two extended exercises in museum taxidermy, and a field trip to learn about wild animal care and conservation.


Prerequisites:  Successful completion of BIO112, or a comparably rigorous survey of animal diversity, structure, and function is an absolute prerequisite for this course.


Cell Phones: Please do your classmates the courtesy of turning off your cell phones during class and lab periods. If you must answer your cell phone, please leave the room to do so. If you leave the room, please do not come back. If you feel that you must monitor your cell phone during class or lab, please get permission from the instructor.


Wesleyan College Statement on Civility in the Classroom: Students, faculty, and staff are expected to treat each other with respect in all interactions.  Int the classroom, rude, disruptive, and/or disrespectful behaviors as determined by the faculty member interfere other students’ rights and with the instructor’s ability to teach. Therefore, anyone exhibiting unacceptable behaviors during the class will be asked to leave and will be counted absent for that class period. Failure to cooperate with this process will result in disciplinary action that may include withdrawal from the class or dismissal from the College.  Violations will be reproted to the Provost.


Wesleyan College Department of Biology Policy on the Honor Code: All students of Wesleyan College have agreed to abide by the Wesleyan College Honor Code and strict enforcement of the Honor Code will be practiced by all Biology faculty. Any violation of the Honor Code including plagiarism or cheating on exams, quizzes or any assignment will not be tolerated and will be reported to the Wesleyan College Honor Court. Cheating (giving or receiving any unauthorized information or supplying information from any source other than your memory) on any exam will result in a course semester grade of F. Plagiarism and/or improper citation on any assignment will be dealt with on a case by case basis, but also may result in an F grade for the assignment or the course. If you are unclear about violation of the Honor Code for any assignment, you should contact the instructor before handing in the assignment.  If you have ANY questions as to what would constitute cheating/plagiarism for either the take-home exams or the laboratory Data Sheets, it is your responsibility to clarify this with the instructor.

Wesleyan College Statement on Accessibility: Wesleyan College is committed to equal education, full participation, and access to facilities for all students. Any student who requires reasonable academic accommodations, use of auxiliary aids, or facility acess for a class must first register with Disability Resources by contacting Christy Henry, Dean of Students, at or (478) 757-5219.  If reasonable accommodations are established, the student should request Accommodation Letters from Disability Resources then schedule an appontment to meet with the professor to determine how the accommodations will be implemented for each class as early in the semester as possible.  Accommodations require advance notice to implement and will not be retroactively administered for the semester. Accommodations that decrease the integrity of a course will not be approved. See the Wesleyanne Student Handbook for the complete policy regarding students with disabilities.


Attendance:  You are expected to attend classes regularly and any absence is potentially problematic.  Excessive unexcused absences (4 or more) will be reported to the Dean in accordance with college policy and may adversely affect your grade.  Because the actual experience gained in the laboratory will be central to understanding and contributing to subsequent classroom discussions, any unexcused absence from the lab portion of the course may result in a lowering of the semester grade. 


Class Preparation and Participation:  The better prepared you are for lab sessions, the more you will accomplish.  The better prepared you are for class sessions, the more they will resemble discussions and the less they will resemble traditional lectures.


Histology Loan Boxes:  There are four identical boxed sets of microscope slides. These will be kept in one of the wall cabinets in MSC 101.  You are free to use them at any time when you can find a quiet space in the biology laboratories.  Please handle them with care and do not take them out of the building.


Ancillary References:  A set of additional guides and atlases will be kept in a wall cabinet in MSC 101 for your use.  You are free to use them at any time when you can find a quiet space in the biology laboratories.  Please do not take them out of the building.


Open Lab Policy:  I anticipate that much of your study for this course will involve further manipulation of the laboratory vertebrate preparations and histology slides.  For this reason, you should feel free to come in and use the laboratory space and materials any time when the laboratory room (MSC 101) is not in use by another class.  Some space in the student research lab MSC 105 will also generally be available, but be sure not to leave specimens or slide collections in that room.  The campus police will have a standing request to let you into the laboratory whenever you need access.  As a matter of safety, I will request that you work in pairs (at least) after hours when no one else is on the first floor of the Munroe Sciene Center, and that you ask the campus police to escort you to and from your dorm buildings or cars at night.  Please do not interfere with other ongoing laboratories or classes during the day, or with exam setups.


Grading:  Semester grades will be based on the four class exams, four lab practical exams, and two taxidermy projects.  Grades will be computed on the following basis:


            Group Taxidermy Projects                      10%

            Class Exam I                                          10%               90%+               A

            Class Exam II                                         12%               80% - 89%      B

            Class Exam III                                        14%               70% - 79%      C

            Class Final Exam                                    18%               60% - 69%      D

            Laboratory Practical I                               6%               < 60%              F

            Laboratory Practical II                              8%

            Laboratory Practical III                          10%

            Laboratory Final Practical                       12%

            Total                                                   100%



Testing Format:  Two one-hour class midterm exams will be given during class periods, and a two-hour class final will be given during the assigned final exam period.  These exams will include some objective-style questions, requiring you to fill in blanks or identify/define the terms given.  There will also be essay-style questions of two types.  The first type will be a basic describe/explain - compare/contrast type.  The other type will be a synthesis question, requiring you to apply your acquired knowledge to solve some novel problem or evaluate some hypothetical situation.  Finally, there may be some multiple-choice questions.  I will review the exam format in greater detail in class as the first exam approaches.  I will make every effort to return exams to students within one week.


Two laboratory midterm practical exams will be given during three laboratory periods, and a one-hour lab final exam will precede the lecture final exam.  During each exam you will rotate between 10-14 stations.  Each station will involve one or more anatomical and/or histological preparations and a short set of related short-answer questions.  The typical station will include both "what is this structure" and "what does this structure do" kinds of questions.  Because one purpose of undergraduate education in the sciences is to prepare you for graduate and profession school practices, rotation through the stations will be timed.  You will have to trust me that this is not as harrowing an experience as it sounds.  Usually.



Class Schedule: Note:  This schedule may be subject to change as the course proceeds


Dates                     Topics                                                                                  Text Chapters 

Aug 14, 16

Introduction to Phylogenetic and Anatomical Study 1

Aug 21, 23

Simple Chordates; Vertebrate Diversity 2, 3

Aug 28

Vertebrate Evolution 3, 18

Aug 30

Vertebrate Design and Development 4

Sept 4

Vertebrate Development 5

Sept 6


September 11

LECTURE EXAM I (during class period)  

Sept 13

Skull 7

Sept 18

Dentition 7

Sept 20

Integument 6

Sept 25, 27

Skeletal System 8, 9

Oct 2,4

Muscular System 10

Oct 9

No Class - Fall Break  

Oct 11


October 16

LECTURE EXAM II (during class period)  

Oct 18, 23

Digestive System 13

Oct 25

Respiratory System 11

Oct 30

Circulatory System & Blood 12

Nov 1

Lymphatic & Immune Systems 12

Nov 6

Excretory System 14

Nov 8


November 13

LECTURE EXAM III (during class period)  

Nov 15

Reproductive Systems 14

Nov 21-25

No Classes – Thanksgiving Break  

Nov 27

Endocrine System 15

Nov 29

Nervous System 16

Dec 4

Sensory Systems 17

Dec 6

Reading Day







Laboratory Schedule: Note:  This schedule may be subject to change as the course proceeds


Date(s)         Topics                                                                                          Exercises         

Aug 14

Lab Preparation - Dissection and Osteological Mounts  

Aug 21

Vertebrate Phylogeny I: Simple Chordates to Agnathans KZ 1, 2

Aug 28

Vertebrate Phylogeny II: Gnathostomes; Tissue Types KZ 2, 3

Sept 4


Vertebrate Development and Design: Development; Allometry; Bone Metrics; Joint Mechanics



Sept 11


Sept 18


Skull and Dentition; Taxonomic Keys


KZ 5; Handouts

Sept 25


External Anatomy; Integument

Taxidermy I: Study Skins, Carcass Skinning and Debridement

KZ 4, 6


Oct 2


Axial Skeleton & Muscles

Taxidermy II: Skeletal Reconstruction

KZ 5, 6


Oct 9

no lab - Fall Break  

Oct 16


Oct 23

Appendicular Skeleton & Muscles

Taxidermy III: Skeletal Mounting

KZ 5, 6

Oct 30

Body Cavities; Digestive System; Respiratory System KZ 7, 8

Nov 6

Circulatory System; Lymphatic System; Blood KZ 8

Nov 13


Nov 20

No Lab - Thanksgiving Break  

Nov 22

Excretory System; Reproductive Systems; Endocrine System KZ 9; CR 14

Dec 4

Nervous System; Special Senses KZ 10; CR 13




KZ = Kardong, K.V. & Zalisko, E.J. (2012) Comparative Vertebrate Anatomy.(6th Ed.) 

McGraw Hill.  Dubuque, Iowa.


CR = Chaisson, R.B. & Radke, W.J.  (1993)  Laboratory Anatomy of  the Vertebrates.  W. C. Brown.  Dubuque, Iowa.  (We will be using this as a supplemental guide to the endocrine and neural sensory systems, which are not covered in the Kardong & Zalisko Guide.)