Dipartimento di Scienze della Vita e dell'Ambiente - Guida degli insegnamenti (Syllabus)


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Seat Scienze
A.A. 2016/2017
Credits 8
Hours 64
Period 1^ semestre
Language ENG
U-gov code ST01 3S012


A basic knowledge of animal cytology, histology and embryology of chordates is required.

Development of the course

The course takes place during the first semester of the third year (First Level degree course in Biological science).

Learning outcomes

The aim of the course is to depict a general scenario of the evolutionary radiation of vertebrates through the comparative analysis of body plans and organ systems in the different taxonomic group, aquatic and terrestrial, of this cordate subphylum. After a synthetic introduction concerning the earth history and the geological chronology, the vertebrate evolution is explained, with particular emphasis about some “key phases” of their evolutionary-adaptive route (transitions agnates/gnathostomes, bony fish/amphibians, anamniotes/amniotes, and ectotherms/endotherms). The anatomy of the apparatuses is analyzed in the light of their morpho-functional adaptations to different habitats in the different vertebrate groups.

Ability to apply the knowledge:
At the end of the course, graduates will be able i) to apply the knowledge acquired in the recognition of macroscopic and microscopic anatomical preparations, and ii) to explain the different morphological specializations in terms of performed functions; they will also iii) recognize and correctly classify the most representative species of the major taxonomic groups of vertebrates (agnathans, cartilaginous and bony fishes, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals).

Soft skills:
At the end of the course, students should know the basics of the anatomy of vertebrates and be able to evaluate the phyletic relations with protochordates and hemichordates and among the different classes of vertebrates thanks to the comparison of the body plans of different taxa. They must also explain the different morphological specializations in terms of performed functions.


Contents (lectures, 7 CFU, 56 hours):
Systematics and evolution of vertebrates; plate tectonics; ecological crisis and mass extinctions; chronology of the geological eras and periods. The binomial system of the Linnean classification; nomenclature rules; evolutionary systematics and the significance of hierarchical classifications; definition and examples of taxonomic characters; concepts of homology, analogy, convergence, divergence, adaptive radiation and natural selection. The biological species concept and the mechanisms of reproductive isolation. Classification and evolution of the chordates (ascidians, amphioxus and vertebrates or craniotes); evolutionary affinity with calcichordates and hemichordates; early phases of vertebrate evolution. Classification and evolution of the agnathans: extinct armoured forms (pteraspids and cephalaspids) and hypothesis about the bone origin; the living agnathans (lampreys and hagfishes). The rise of jaws and paired fins and the aquatic gnathostome radiation; classification of placoderms, acanthodians, cartilaginous and bony fishes. The land “conquest”: the amphibian radiation; classification and evolution of amphibians (“Labyrinthodontia” and Lissamphibia). The full independence from water: the amniote radiation; classification and evolution of reptiles. The air “conquest”: from feathered dinosaurs to Archaeopteryx; classification and evolution of birds. The mammals and evolution of endothermy; classification and evolution of mammals and mammal-like reptiles (pelycosaurs e therapsids). Classification and evolution of primates and man.
Anatomy. History of the Comparative anatomy. An outline of organogenesis. Tegumentary system; skeletal system; muscular system; nervous system and sense organs; endocrine system; uro-genital system; circulatory system; respiratory system; digestive apparatus.
Lab practice (1 CFU, 8 hours). Identification and description of macroscopic and microscopic anatomical preparations.

Development of the examination

Methods for assessing learning outcomes:
The exam is oral.

Criteria for assessing learning outcomes: 
Will be based on the student's level of competence (acquired knowledge and capacity in exposing the subject).

Criteria for measuring learning outcomes:
The learning measurement criteria will be expressed by a scale of thirty.

Criteria for conferring final mark:
Considering enough the score 18/30, giving praise to students who have distinguished themselves for the sake of clarity and full knowledge for the matter.

Recommended reading

Appunti di lezione
Stingo V. et al., 2016. Anatomia Comparata. Edi.Ermes, Milano.
Liem K. F., et al., 2012. Anatomia comparata dei Vertebrati: una visione funzionale ed evolutiva. EDISES (seconda edizione italiana).
Pough F. H., et al., 2014 Zoologia dei Vertebrati. Pearson.
Kardong K. V., 2005. Vertebrati. Anatomia comparata, funzione, evoluzione. McGraw-Hill.
Hickman C. P., et al., 2004. Diversità animale. McGraw-Hill.

  • Scienze biologiche

Università Politecnica delle Marche
P.zza Roma 22, 60121 Ancona
Tel (+39) 071.220.1, Fax (+39) 071.220.2324
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