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Unit information: The Cambrian Explosion - the origin of animal body plans in 2015/16

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Unit name The Cambrian Explosion - the origin of animal body plans
Unit code EASC30052
Credit points 10
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2D (weeks 19 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Vinther
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Earth Sciences
Faculty Faculty of Science

Description including Unit Aims

This course provides an overview of the shape and structure of the animal tree of life from a zoomorphological, phylogenetic, palaeontological and geological perspective. The student will become familiar with the morphologic diversity underpinning the diversity of animals and the invertebrate fossil record. We will look at the diverse ecological strategies animals have adapted towards and discuss how these evolved and made an impact on Earth as we know it.

The main aims are to introduce and comprehensively review the following themes:

  • How can we reconstruct the history of evolution
  • What are the shape of the tree of life of animals and their ecology
  • The morphology and fossil record of invertebrate phyla
  • Geological and environmental setting of the Precambrian to Cambrian transition

Intended Learning Outcomes

The student should become familiar with and be able to:

  • Identify major phyla and characterise their diversity
  • Think of evolution in the context of phylogenetic trees
  • Know the phylogeny of major animal clades
  • Be familiar with the geological record of invertebrates
  • Know the geological history and investigate the interplay between organismal evolution and the geosphere

Teaching Information

Lectures and practicals

Assessment Information

Final 2 hour closed exam (75%), 2 assessments based on practicals (25%). One of the practical assessments will be a detailed report based on work done over three of the practical sessions and will constitute 15% of the 25% assessment load.

Reading and References

  • Ruppert, Fox, Barnes. 2003. Invertebrate Zoology: a functional evolutionary approach.
  • Erwin and Valentine. 2013. The Cambrian Explosion.