Biology of the Vertebrates

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EEB 2214, Fall 2010
The evolution of form, function,
& diversity of the vertebrates

Meeting Time: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 12:30-1:45 in BPB130
Textbook: Pough F. H., C. M. Janis, and J. B. Heiser. 2009. Vertebrate Life, 8th Edition. Prentice Hall.


Dr. Elizabeth Jockusch
Office: Biology/Pharmacy 305B
Phone: (860) 486-4452
Office hours: Thursdays, 2-3 pm, and by appointment

Dr. Margaret Rubega
Note: All emails must contain "EEB2214" in the subject line to avoid being filtered out and deleted
Office: Biology/Pharmacy 500
Phone: (860) 486-4502
Office hours: Thursdays 11:30 am -12:30 pm and by appointment

Alejandro Rico-Guevara (Teaching Assistant)
Office hours:


Exam 1 = 100 points (29.6%)
Exam 2 = 100 points (29.6%)
Exam 3 = 100 points (29.6%)
#Research Responses = 30 points (8.6%)
#Tree Quizzes = 10 points (2.9%)
#Collections Tour = 10 points (2.9%)

There will be two one-hour, non-cumulative, exams scheduled during the lecture hour. During the final exam period, a third one-hour exam will be given covering material from the final third of the course. Details about the collections tour and video project will be provided later in the semester.

Research Responses

As a research field, vertebrate biology is alive and well, with discoveries being made constantly. Each week, we will select one paper from the primary scientific literature that describes a study relevant to vertebrate biology. On Tuesdays, class will include a short in-class written exercise, in which we ask you to answer three standard questions about the paper:
1) What was the major new result?
2) How does this result alter or add to what was known previously?
3) Why does it matter?
The written exercise will be followed by a brief discussion of the paper, during which we will call on pre-determined, but randomly selected, students to talk about their answers to these questions.

In-class assessments are worth 3 points each. 11 will be offered over the course of the semester, and each student's best 10 will be counted. There will be no paper selected for the first week, or the weeks of the first and second exams. Anyone not present when the written exercise is done will receive no credit, regardless of the reason for the absence. No make-ups will be given.

All papers will be available electronically. A link to each paper will be posted on the course schedule below, next to the date of the in-class exercise. While many articles in scientific journals are now made available free to everyone ("open access" articles), access to other articles requires a subscription, which the UConn library buys. On campus, you should not encounter difficulty accessing the full text of selected articles. From off-campus, the easiest way to access articles that require a subscription is using the EZProxy. If you get a message saying that you may purchase access to the paper, then try again through the proxy. In some cases, it may also be necessary to quit and restart your browser. Alternative ways to access the articles via UConn's subscription are to configure the proxy within your web browser and to use the VPN. It is your responsibility to test that you have access in a timely fashion. Course instructors will not respond to requests to provide the article directly to individuals.

Tree Quizzes

On several of the research response days, we will incorporate additional questions about the phylogenetic tree of vertebrates into the written exercise. These will be worth a total of 10 points over the course of the semester. As with the research responses, you must be present to receive credit and no make-ups will be given. If you have a valid, documented reason for missing class on the day of a tree quiz, and have followed the policy on missed exams, then your quiz score will be prorated.

Collections Tours

Every student is expected to visit the EEB Biological Collections for a tour that will introduce you to the resources and opportunities in the collection. We will offer 10 different opportunities, on different days and times. You will need to sign in at the collection; at the end of the semester, everyone who has signed in will have 10 points added to their grade. Tours will take about 45 minutes, they meet at the south end of the Biology/Physics building lobby on the hour. You are responsible for finding a day and time to attend from the options below; if your class schedule prohibits you from attending any of these, you are responsible for letting us know that you will need an alternative opportunity AT LEAST TWO WEEKS PRIOR TO THE FINAL TOUR. If you have already toured the collections (e.g., in a previous class), provide us with documentation to that effect, and we will just add the 10 points to your grade without you needing to tour the collections again.

Available tour days/times:

Course Policies

Missed Exams:
Any student who does not attend an exam and fails to receive permission in advance will receive a 0 for the exam. Approval of any request to miss an exam requires, but is not guaranteed by, verifiable written documentation of the reason. A student who receives approval to miss an exam will have his or her grade for the missed exam prorated based on his or her performance on the remainder of the exams. We will not give make-up exams. Every student must take the final (exam 3). Permission to reschedule the final can only be obtained through procedures determined by the Office of Student Services and Advocacy.

Academic Integrity:
Plagiarism and cheating are violations of the student conduct code, and may be punished by failure in the course or, in severe cases, dismissal from the University. For more information, see Section IV of the Student Conduct Code.

If you have a disability for which you may be requesting an accommodation, you should contact a course instructor and the Center for Students with Disabilities (Wilbur Cross Building, Room 201) within the first two weeks of the semester.

Help Resources

The secret of success to this course is to not let yourself fall behind. Be sure to fill gaps in your notes and navigate blocks in your understanding as soon as possible. Should you run into trouble with the material, below we have listed some steps for obtaining assistance. While we welcome any and all questions on the material, before you contact us, please first check the resources below to see if your question has already been answered. If/when you do contact us, please understand that we will respond as quickly as we can, but we do have other obligations that might prevent this from happening as urgently as you may need (like 3:00 am the day of an exam...).

Can I convert this course to honors?

Study Materials:
Study questions will be posted online after every lecture.
Most lectures will be accompanied by a handout, which will be available in class. If you miss a lecture, see the teaching assistant to get a copy of any handouts.

Review Sessions:
A review session will be held before each exam. Dates and times will be posted here once they are set.

Links to External Resources:

DigiMorph - Excellent source of 2 & 3D images of internal & external structures of various organisms
ARKive - a unique collection of thousands of wildlife videos, images and fact-files, with a special focus on the world's threatened species

Vertebrates in the News

Pea-sized frog found in Borneo 30 August 2010

Pea-sized Frog.jpg

Lecture Schedule & Materials

Date Topic Readings Supplemental materials
Part I: Aug 27 - Oct 10, Dr. Elizabeth Jockusch
Aug 27 Vertebrate Diversity ---------
Aug 29 Chordate and Vertebrate Origins Ch. 1, 2
Sept 4 Living Jawless Vertebrates Ch. 3
Sept 6 Early Vertebrate Fossils Ch. 3
Sept 11 Chondrichthyans Ch. 5
Sept 13 Osteichthyan Origin and Diversification Ch. 6
Sept 18 living Actinopterygians Ch. 6
Sept 20 Sarcopterygii and Evolution of Tetrapods Ch. 9 (pp. 196-211)
Sept 25 Tetrapod Origins and Amphibian Diversity Ch. 10
Sept 27 EXAM 1 includes material through the origin of tetrapod (but not amphibian diversity) ---------
Oct 2 Amphibian Evolution and Declines Ch. 10
Oct 4 Amniote Origins Ch. 9 (pp. 211-218)
Oct 9 Lepidosaurs Ch. 13
Oct 11 Snakes Ch. 13 (pp. 339-349)
Part II: Oct 19 - Dec 16, Dr. Margaret Rubega
Oct 19 Turtles Ch. 12 UPDATED Available Video Meeting Times
Ophir et al. 2009 Why you shouldn't text in class
Study Questions
Turtles Digging a Nest
Turtle Laying Eggs
Turtle Hatchlings Emerging
Turtle Hatchlings Heading to the Water
Oct 21 Introduction to Archosaurs & Crocodilians Ch. 16 Pdficon small.gifAmniota Phylogeny Worksheet
Study Questions
Alligator Walking
Croc Galloping
Alligator Courtship
Female Crocodile Digging Out Hatchlings
Oct 26 Archosaurs: Pterosaurs Ch. 16 Pdficon small.gifAmniota Synapomorphy Worksheet
Study Questions
Pterosaur Locomotion
Oct 28 Dinosaurs and Other Mesosoic Diapsids Ch. 16 Study Questions
Nov 1
Nov 2
Review Session BPB 131 6:00PM
EXAM 2 includes material beginning with Lissamphibia and ending on Saurichia (includes all of Thursday's lecture material)
Nov 4 Dinosaurs II - Theropods Ch. 16 Study Questions
Nov 9 Birds: Avian Origins Ch. 16 (pp. 439-443) Study Questions
Wing-assisted Incline Running
Nov 11 Birds: Feeding, Morphology, and Reproduction Ch. 17 Study Questions
Nov 16 Birds: Reproduction, and Introduction to Mammals Ch. 17 Study Questions
Nov 18 Mammals: Origins and Radiation
Video Project Due
Ch. 18 Study Questions
Nov 30 Mammals: Primate Evolution and Human Diversity Ch. 24 Study Questions
Dec 2 Mammals: Primate Evolution continued and Mammal Diversity
Ch. 20 Study Questions
Dec. 7 Vertebrate Mass Extinctions, Past and Present
Evaluations of 5 Group Videos Due by 5 pm
Ch. 21 Study Questions
Dec 9 Vertebrate Mass Extinctions, Past and Present Ch. 25 Study Questions
Thylacine Wolf
Dec 13
Dec 16
Review Session BPB 131 7:00PM
EXAM 3 (FINAL) 10:30 am-12:30 pm