BIOL 205: Comparative Invertebrate Zoology

Biology 205 is a comparative survey of primarily marine invertebrates, a field so vast that we can only begin to scratch the surface in one 4-unit course. Consequently, the course treats most groups only superficially. However, over a 14 week semester, the class will be introduced to a diverse array of animals that most students have never seen before and at present cannot even imagine!

The course is organized along three major themes that are fundamental to zoology:

  • Functional morphology: form, function & system compatibility
  • Ontogeny: development & life history
  • Phylogeny: unity, diversity & evolutionary history
The objectives of the course are to:

  • Introduce students to how animals are organized, how they work, and how they reproduce themselves;
  • Provide students with a basic understanding of animal diversity;
  • Stimulate an appreciation of animals and their evolutionary histories;
  • Provide students with a solid foundation in the field of invertebrate zoology to help make informed decisions regarding environmental/conservation policy, funding for scientific research, and public education.
In order to accomplish these goals, it will be necessary for students to assimilate a substantial amount of new factual information/terminology, but also to integrate and synthesize that information into ideas and concepts. I hope that the class experiences a high level of enjoyment during our exploration not only of these fascinating organisms but also the broader phylogenetic context within which each one of our populations has evolved.

This course runs from September to December.


BIOL 428: Evolution of Marine Invertebrates

This is an advanced course in comparative organismal biology focused on the macroevolution of morphology in marine invertebrates, an extremely diverse assemblage of lineages that encompasses all animals, excluding insects and vertebrates. This course provides students with the opportunity to expand their expertise in comparative zoology by addressing reoccurring themes in the evolution of marine animals.

Content areas include modern views of metazoan phylogeny; comparative invertebrate embryology; the evolution of miniaturization in marine meiofauna; gelatinous and transparent body forms in pelagic invertebrates; bioluminescence and symbioses in deep-sea invertebrates; strategies for attachment, locomotion and protection in benthic invertebrates; and broad patterns of morphological change as reflected in both living and extinct lineages. Each topic in the course will draw on primary scientific literature in order to emphasize different approaches to research on marine invertebrates.

The range of body forms and lifestyles represented by marine invertebrates is incredibly diverse, and a major challenge is to make sense of this diversity within the context of evolutionary history. The emergence of molecular approaches to developmental biology and systematics has revolutionized our understanding of the overall phylogenetic tree of animals. However, interpretation and criticism of these molecular data rely on broad knowledge of organismal biology, a vital area of scholarship that is fading in life science programs as the DNA revolution in biology continues to unfold.

BIOL 428 helps reverse this trend by providing 3rd and 4th year students with the opportunity to rigorously investigate the morphological diversity and evolution of marine invertebrates and expand their expertise in comparative zoology, natural history and marine biology. The course will be beneficial to students considering careers in research, teaching, ecotourism, public aquaria, and marine conservation.

This course runs from September to December.


Departments of Zoology and Botany
University of British Columbia, Vancouver
Email: bleander@mail.ubc.ca
Tel: 604 822 2474
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