EZO-31306 Vertebrate Structure and Function


Credits 6.00

Teaching methodContact hours
Group work3
Excursion (one day)3
Course coordinator(s)A Terlouw
Lecturer(s)MSc AM Valk
A Terlouw
dr. SWS Gussekloo
dr. ir. FT Muijres
Examiner(s)prof. dr. ir. JL van Leeuwen

Language of instruction:

Dutch and/or English

Assumed knowledge on:

EZO-10306 Human and Animal Biology I / HAP-20306 Human and Animal Biology, part 2.


In the lectures, an overview will be given of the origin, evolution, diversity and adaptive radiation of the vertebrates. The course presents material on the macroscopical and microscopical level, using an integrative approach. Basic biomechanics is used to gain insight into the physical constraints on morphology. Specific topics (such as interpretation of the fossil record, comparative morphology at the levels of the organism, organs and tissues) are studied by the students from books and papers. Students discuss these topics in small groups on the basis of a series of questions. The laboratory work (14 half-days) provides a broad overview of the structural biology of the various lineages of vertebrates. The student will be trained to recognize the relationships between structure, function, behavior and environment. In one part (6 half days) major body plans will be studied via dissection. Another part (6 half days) focuses on the microscopical anatomy in relation to functional requirements. Macroscopical and microscopical requirements will be linked. In a third part (3 half days), students will work in small groups on a mini-research project. Each group studies a different aspect of the functional morphology of bird flight, such as wing and muscle design in relation to the specific requirements of flight. Each group gives an oral presentation of the results and provides a written report. An excursion will be organized to a museum or zoo (facultative).

Learning outcomes:

After successful completion of this course students are expected to:
- discuss the hypotheses on the origin of the vertebrates;
- infer evolutionary traits in vertebrates from comparative morphology;
- define and explain fundamental concepts of vertebrate comparative anatomy, function and adaptation;
- describe the (ultra)structure and functions of a range of vertebrate cells, tissues and organ systems and understanding of the application of histology and be aware of the role of specific techniques in current research;
- relate anatomical design and the use of basic biomechanical form analysis;
- demonstrate the ability to identify the morphological features during practical sessions;
- execute a mini-research project and interpret the scientific data;
- give an oral and written presentation of scientific results and be able to chair a discussion group.


- follow lectures and study the explained material;
- reading chapters of text books and scientific papers;
- discussion of self-study material in small groups, with a chairman and tutor;
- dissection and microscopical observations;
- written and oral presentations;
- carrying out of a small research project.


- performance in discussion groups and weekly tests: 10%;
- a group paper or oral presentation on the mini research project of the art of bird flying: 5%;
- written test with closed question on the subject histology and morphology (laboratory exercises), the closed questions are computer based: 35%;
- written test with closed and open questions on the subject of comparative functional morphology, basic biomechanics, and evolution of vertebrates. the closed questions are computer based: 50%.
There is no required minimum mark for each of the components for a final pass (5.5 or higher) of the course.


Reader: 'Vertebrate Structure and Function' (available in the WUR-shop);
Kardong Kenneth V. (2015) Vertebrates, Comparative Anatomy, Function and Evolution 7th ed. McGrawHill;
Junqueira [et al.] Functional Histology. (most recent edition) It's is supplied for loan.
Additional: Lecture hand-outs and additional information on Blackboard.

Compulsory for: BBIBiologyBScB: Organismal Adaptation and Development2MO
Restricted Optional for: MASAnimal SciencesMSc2MO