Biol 337: Biology of Invertebrates

College of Charleston

Spring 2017



"No one with an unbiased mind can study any living creature, however humble, without being

struck with enthusiasm at its marvelous structure and properties" -- Charles Darwin




How many different ways can you build an animal? Although animals all face the same basic problems—how to consume, digest, move, sense, defend themselves, exchange gases, eliminate wastes, reproduce, and so on—evolution has produced more than 30 distinct body designs that involve somewhat different solutions. The goal of this course is to introduce you to these diverse solutions using as examples many of the animal phyla and taxa below the phylum level. The so-called “invertebrates” (found among all animal phyla) include a far greater range of diversity in design than the "vertebrates" (just a part of one phylum). We will use these comparisons to illustrate the radically different ways that animals have evolved over the last 600 million years to solve the same problems using different structures and processes.


As a hard-working and engaged participant in this course, you will come to be able to:

  describe how different body designs solve (or create!) biological problems related to physiological and environmental challenges

  contrast major animal groups with regard to how the body works in movement, growth, nutrition, respiration, water balance, excretion, defense, & reproduction

  demonstrate how and why “shared, derived traits” are used to deduce evolutionary relationships

  identify the major characters that are used to deduce relationships among the major animal taxa

  describe large-scale patterns in the history of animal diversity and identify general mechanisms that have led to variation in animal body design

  explain why most animals should really be thought of as a series of radically different life cycle stages that experience different environments and selection pressures during their ontogeny

  describe animals in the context of communities, ecological interactions, and conservation problems

explain and use terms and taxonomic names that reflect your understanding of major concepts in animal form, function, and phylogeny

Along with introducing you to the diversity and evolution of animal body plans, my goal is also to develop your critical thinking skills through interactive lectures, readings from texts and primary literature, short writing assignments, laboratory exercises, and concept-centered exams.  Your goal should be to pose questions, to seek evidence for answers, to look for patterns, and to organize information into a framework for talking about animal structure and function—that is, to practice thinking like a biologist. I also hope you will teach and learn from one another, especially when studying course material and completing laboratory exercises.

Syllabus information

Downloadable files (username: biol337, pwd needed)

Score distributions on assignments/exams (Spring '15) (Spring '14) (Spring '13) (Spring '12) (Spring '11) (Spring '10) (Spring '09) (Spring '08) (Spring '07) (Fall '06) (Spring '06) (Fall '05)

Class photos (Spring '15) (Spring '12) (Spring '11) (Spring '07) (Spring '06)


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