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Module titleZoology
Module codeBIO1427
Academic year2021/2
Module staff

Dr Andrew McGowan (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks



Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

The vast majority of animal life on Earth gets by without a backbone. In first term during a series of lectures and practicals you will be introduced to the bewildering diversity of invertebrate life-forms. First term field trips to a range of habitats will allow you to study some of this diversity yourself, focusing on animal function and adaptations to different environments. The second half of the module is focused on the origin of the vertebrates through to the evolution of Homo sapiens via a series of carefully constructed lectures and practical sessions. Field trips will provide you with the opportunity to further develop your understanding of animal diversity by focusing on animal function and adaptations to differing environments and ecosystems. By the end of the module you will have gained a core understanding of the diversity of invertebrate and vertebrate life from a functional perspective that will provide you with an excellent knowledge platform for further modules. The emphasis will be on defining the key characteristics of the main phylogenetic groups and understanding adaptations from a functional perspective. Practicals throughout the module will be varied and will predominately focus on specimens in the field and in the laboratory / virtual lab. These will essentially further enforce the material taught during the lectures i.e. range of diversity within and between animal groups, their defining characteristics, and the functional perspective of adaptations – asking the question ‘how do the adaptations we see in the organisms in front of us fit to life styles of the animals concerned?’ Furthermore, you will be encouraged to use the coursework to develop your own interest in zoology by considering real-world scenarios that will better equip you to apply the theory you have learned to practical situations in the workplace

Module aims - intentions of the module

The module will provide you with an understanding of the diversity of invertebrate and vertebrate life from a functional perspective. You will be exposed to a suite of lectures encompassing all the major invertebrate groups from protists to cephalopods that will range in content from classification and defining characteristics and will touch on interesting aspects of reproduction, physiology, behaviour and evolution. In practical classes you will be exposed to animal diversity concentrating on function and adaptation to environments and ecosystems. The module will provide you with a core knowledge of animal diversity and macro-evolutionary patterns that will form a platform for future modules. The module complements other biological modules in Stage 1, Ecology and Conservation, Evolution, Physiology and Marine Biology, and provides a foundation for Stage 2 modules at the Penryn campus.

Working both singly and in groups, the module aims to develop a series of transferrable skills including:

  • time management,
  • problem solving, and
  • data handling and interpretation.

The teaching contributions on this module involve elements of research undertaken by module staff, such as work on aspects of sea turtle reproductive ecology and the breeding strategies and ecology of avifauna. Moreover, you are encouraged to undertake enquiry-led learning, specifically through the various labs and exploring some of the ideas raised during lectures.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Outline the fundamentals of organismal biology and the key defining characteristics of all the major taxonomic vertebrate and invertebrate animal groups
  • 2. Critically examine specimens for key adaptations to ecological niches
  • 3. Evaluate different methods and techniques for generating biological information and data

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 4. Describe essential facts and theory across a sub-discipline of biosciences
  • 5. Identify critical questions from the literature and synthesise research-informed examples into written work
  • 6. Identify and implement, with some guidance, appropriate methodologies and theories for addressing a specific research problem in biosciences
  • 7. With guidance, deploy established techniques of analysis, practical investigation, and enquiry within biosciences
  • 8. Describe and begin to evaluate approaches to our understanding of biosciences with reference to primary literature, reviews and research articles

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 9. Develop, with guidance, a logical and reasoned argument with sound conclusions
  • 10. Communicate ideas, principles and theories using a variety of formats in a manner appropriate to the intended audience
  • 11. Collect and interpret appropriate data and undertake straightforward research tasks with guidance
  • 12. Evaluate own strengths and weaknesses in relation to professional and practical skills identified by others

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

Lectures begin with a background to the module and some of the underlying key concepts and theories that are central to zoology. This is followed by a suite of lectures on:

First term:

  • Phylogeny, systematics and evolution of major invertebrate taxa
  • Prokaryotes, eukaryotes and the major protist groups
  • Introduction to animal diversity and body plans
  • Sponges and cnidarians
  • Platyhelminthes
  • Rotifers and other pseudocoelomates
  • Molluscs
  • Annelids
  • Arthropods
  • Echinoderms

Second term:

  • Evolution of chordates
  • Fish
  • Amphibians
  • Reptiles
  • Birds
  • Mammals
  • Evolution of humans

Learning and teaching

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching44Lectures
Scheduled learning and teaching28Field trips and laboratory practicals – Field trip visits to a variety of habitat types around Cornwall – including rocky shore and freshwater stream. Laboratory practical work includes a practical session looking at the diversity and functional morphology of insects. Laboratory or virtual laboratory practical sessions on the diversity and functional morphology of all chordates groups
Scheduled learning and teaching8Field trip to a local zoo if circumstances allow
Guided independent study220Additional reading and research for the laboratory reports and the examination


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Short answer questions during lectures and fieldwork sessionsOngoing throughout the moduleAllOral
Short answer written assessments (bi-weekly) as part of the self-directed learning activities, that mimic those asked in summative lab reportsOngoing throughout the moduleAllFeedback sheet and model answers

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
First term lab report – multiple short note answer questions and data interpretation201000 wordsAllModel answers
First term class test301 hour1-2, 4, 8, 10Model answers
Second term class test301 hour1-2, 4, 8, 10Model answers
Second term lab report – multiple short note answer questions and data interpretation201000 wordsAllModel answers


Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
First term lab reportAlternative Lab report first term materialAllAugust ref/def
First term class testClass test1-2, 4, 8, 10August ref/def
Second term class testClass test1-2, 4, 8, 10August ref/def
Second term lab reportAlternative lab report second term materialAllAugust ref/def

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken because of a deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to sit a further assessment as necessary. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of referral will be capped at 40%.


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Campbell NA, Reece JB (2008) Biology, 8th Ed. Pearson. ISBN 0-321-53616-7/0-321-53616-9
  • Hickman, Roberts, Keen, Larson Eisenhour Animal Diversity4th Edn McGraw-Hill. ISBN 13: 978-0-07-110670-2 / 10: 0-07-11670-7
  • Ruppert, EE,  Fox RS, Barnes RD  (2015) Invertebrate Zoology, a functional evolutionary approach 7th Edition. ISBN 978-0030259821 /  0030259827
  • Pough, F.H., Janis, C.M. and Heiser, J.B. 2005. Vertebrate Life 7th, 8th or 9th Edition, Pearson. ISBN 0-13-127836-3

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Zoology, biodiversity, phylogeny, evolutionary biology, systematics, adaptations

Credit value30
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date