BIOL210-23S2 (C) Semester Two 2023

Vertebrate Biology

15 points

Start Date: Monday, 17 July 2023
End Date: Sunday, 12 November 2023
Withdrawal Dates
Last Day to withdraw from this course:
  • Without financial penalty (full fee refund): Sunday, 30 July 2023
  • Without academic penalty (including no fee refund): Sunday, 1 October 2023


The comparative anatomy, general biology, ecology, physiology and evolutionary history of the vertebrates.

The course aims to introduce students to the phylum Chordata – animals with backbones. It will provide information on the phylogenetic relationships of the different groups that comprise the phylum, and in particular demonstrate how evolutionary processes have shaped this major group of animals.

Lectures include:
• Origins of the phylum Chordata
• Life in the sea – origins and radiations of the fishes
• Movement onto land – the emergence of the tetrapods
• Locomotion – swimming, walking, flying
• Dinosaurs and other reptiles
• Birds and mammals – successful homeotherms
• Extinction and future of the vertebrates

Learning Outcomes

  • As a Student in this Course, I will:
  • Have knowledge about the different classes within the phylum and their phylogenetic relationships (assessment tasks: lab reports, lab exam and final exam; Critically competent)
  • Have knowledge of the chronology of the emergence of different groups of vertebrates, and key events in their evolution (assessment tasks: lab reports, lab exam and final exam; Critically competent; Globally aware)
  • Understand the role of extinction events in shaping the diversity of vertebrates (assessment
    tasks: final exam; Critically competent; Globally aware)
  • Have detailed knowledge of the anatomy of vertebrates, and how form relates to function in
    an evolutionary context (assessment tasks: lab reports, lab exam and final exam; Critically
  • Have detailed knowledge of the identifying features of vertebrates (assessment tasks: lab
    reports, lab exam and final exam; Critically competent)
  • Have detailed knowledge on the diversity of vertebrates in New Zealand, their evolutionary
    history and how they have been affected by human settlement (assessment tasks: lab
    reports, lab exam, final exam; Critically competent; Biculturally competent and confident;
    Globally aware)
  • Be able to use the library to find research material and to use that information to write
    essays (assessment tasks: essay; Critically competent; employable, innovative and

    Transferable Skills
    As a Student in this Course, you will develop the following skills:
  • An ability to dissect a range of vertebrate animals, and thus have the technical knowledge
    and skills to examine the internal anatomy of any animal (Critically competent; Employable,
    innovative and enterprising)
  • Synthesising information from primary literature (Critically competent; Employable,
    innovative and enterprising)
  • Writing a report on findings. Communication of science is fundamental to its use and
    advancement (Critically competent; Employable, innovative and enterprising)
  • An understanding of the diversity of the New Zealand vertebrate fauna and how it arose
    (Critically competent; Biculturally competent and confident)


Timetable 2023

Students must attend one activity from each section.

Lecture A
Activity Day Time Location Weeks
01 Tuesday 11:00 - 12:00 Rehua 101 Lectorial
17 Jul - 27 Aug
11 Sep - 22 Oct
Lecture B
Activity Day Time Location Weeks
01 Thursday 12:00 - 13:00 Beatrice Tinsley 111
17 Jul - 27 Aug
11 Sep - 22 Oct
Lab A
Activity Day Time Location Weeks
01 Tuesday 12:00 - 15:00 West 505
17 Jul - 27 Aug
02 Wednesday 10:00 - 13:00 West 505
17 Jul - 27 Aug

Timetable Note

Times and locations of lectures may change at short notice. Please monitor the University web site for up-to-date information.
At the time of writing lectures were scheduled for:
Tuesday 12-1 pm
Thursday 10-11 pm

There will be two lab streams: one on Friday morning (9 am – 12 pm) and one on Friday afternoon (1-4 pm). Check the Course Information System to confirm the details of times. All labs will be held in the West Building (room 505).
The labs run for the six weeks of term 3 only. There are two themes to the labs:
Dissection: We will dissect a teleost fish, a toad and a pigeon. You will need dissecting gear (some gear is available in the lab). Lab coats are requried.
Phylogeny: This will be covered using a series of 3 demonstration labs (amphibians and reptiles, birds, and mammals).

It is compulsory to wear a lab coat and safety glasses in the laboratory.

To purchase approved safety glasses, lab or coats go to
The collection point for purchases is inside the southern entry to the Ernest Rutherford Building, Monday to Friday  for the first two weeks of the semester - time to be advised.

Feedback from 2019 Course Survey (scores out of 5)

The following scores were obtained in feedback by students at the end of the course in 2019.

Q1 - The materials provided helped me to understand what was required to succeed in this course:    
Q2 - The organisation of this course helped me learn: 4.53
Q3 - I found the workload was appropriate to the level of the course: 4.57
Q4 - I found the assessments appropriate for the course: 4.43
Q5 - Where I sought feedback on my assessments, I found it helpful: 4.37

Course Coordinator / Lecturer

Jim Briskie


Mike Jackson


Assessment Due Date Percentage  Description
Final Exam 50%
Lab Work 15%
Practical Test 15 Sep 2021 20%
Essay 15 Oct 2021 15% See Learn for separate handout

Details of the essay are available in a separate handout that that can be found on the Learn site. The hand in date for the essay is Friday 14 October 2022.

Laboratory work will be assessed by means of a 1.5 h practical test which will be held on Wednesday 14 September starting at 5.30 pm or earlier if possible.  Details will be finalised during the course.  As lab assessment is through (1) workbooks that are submitted for marking and (2) a lab test you need to ensure that you are working effectively throughout the 6 week lab period.  Use the demonstrators to help you and feel free to show any work to the lab supervisor.  Avoiding labs is not good practice.  The test will examine material that you have encountered during the lab periods, so you really need to attend the labs and see the material.  It is very difficult trying to revise for a practical exam if you have not done the practical work.

Textbooks / Resources

Required Texts

Pough, F. Harvey. , Janis, Christine M., Heiser, John B; Vertebrate life ; 9th ed; Pearson, 2013 (9th or 10th Edition).

Indicative Fees

Domestic fee $951.00

International fee $4,750.00

* All fees are inclusive of NZ GST or any equivalent overseas tax, and do not include any programme level discount or additional course-related expenses.

For further information see School of Biological Sciences .

All BIOL210 Occurrences

  • BIOL210-23S2 (C) Semester Two 2023