Instructor: Dr. Thomas R. Holtz, Jr.
Office: Geology 4106BR> Phone: x5-4084
Office Hours: Wed 10 - 11:30 am
Instructor: Dr. John W. Merck, Jr.
Office: Centreville 1218 (M, Tu) Geology 1119 (W, Th, F)
Phone: x5-2808, x5-4379
Office Hours: Thu 2:00 - 4:00 (Geology 1119)
A survey of the evolution of the vertebrates, encompassing information from the diversity of living members, but concentrating on the contribution of the fossil record. Emphasis is on the phylogenetic systematics, comparative anatomy, developmental biology, and geochronology of major extinct and extant groups.
At least one of the following: BSCI207, BSCI392, GEOL104, GEOL204, GEOL331, HONR219D, or permission of the Geology Department.
- Matthew F. Bonnan. 2016. The Bare Bones: An Unconventional Evolutionary History of the Skeleton. Indiana University Press. 508 pp. ISBN 978-0-253-01832-8
- Additional readings from the technical literature: some listed below, others will be provided via ELMS
An advanced survey of vertebrate evolution as revealed by the fossil record and of the methods by which this pattern is illuminated. This course is intended for students with serious professional or avocational interests in vertebrate evolution and some prior knowledge of:
- The history of life
- The methods of phylogenetic systematics (cladistics)
- The rock record
Two 75 min. lectures and one 50 min. discussion session weekly. Lectures and discussions lost due to University late openings or cancellations or instructor absence will be made up as Panopto video recordings on the ELMS page.
Four credit hours.
The ELMS Canvas site will include announcements concerning the class; copies of the handouts; and so forth. If you have not already done so, make sure that you get access to ELMS.
Final grades will be based on the following items:
- Two mid-term exams (20% each)
- Final exams (25%)
- Five discussion quizzes (10%)
- Four discussion homeworks (25%)
Discussion: The weekly discussion will be devoted either to explorations of the technical literature for selected specific topics or to exercises designed to improve your knowledge of background information not suitable for lecture. Four graded homework assignments will serve as the basis for discussions. Three of these, plus a participation score reflecting the general quality of your participation in discussions will serve as the basis of your Discussion Homework grade. (The lowest homework score is dropped automatically.)
Approximately every 2-3 discussion sessions will begin with a brief (five minute) quiz covering lecture material from the previous weeks. Barring snow days, we expect to administer 5 of these. We drop the lowest score to calculate your quiz grade (10%).
Grade calculation: With diligent work it is possible for each student to attain an A in this class. Grading will be based on points gained from the examinations listed above, as follows:
|100-97% = A+||96-94% = A||93-90% = A-|
|89-87% = B+||86-84% = B||83-80% = B-|
|79-77% = C+||76-74% = C||73-70% = C-|
|69-67% = D+||66-64% = D||63-60% = D-|
|<60% = F|
Class description and attendance policy: Attendance won't be taken, however attendance is required. Exams will be based on lecture and discussion material and reading assignments. A participation score will make up 15% of your discussion grade. Posted web notes are intended as a synopsis of lecture material only and are made available as current and future reference material. We recommend printing these prior to class and making marginal notations. Actual lectures may include additional information. If you miss a lecture you must get full notes from a colleague.
By the end of the semester, every student should be able to:
- Identify, locate, and interpret technical literature in vertebrate paleontology
- Correctly interpret major features and many details of the osteology of extinct and extant vertebrates
- Display proficient knowledge of the pattern of vertebrate evolution
- Understand major connections between vertebrate development and evolution
- Critically evaluate paleontological analyses in the technical literature.
- Absences: Regular attendance and participation in this class is the best way to grasp the concepts and principles being discussed.
However, in the event that a class must be missed due to an illness, the policy in this class is as follows:
- For every medically necessary absence from class, a reasonable effort should be made to notify the instructor in advance of the class. When returning to class, students must bring a note identifying the date of and reason for the absence, and acknowledging that the information in the note is accurate.
- If a student is absent more than once, the instructor may require documentation signed by a health care professional.
- If a student is absent on days when tests or presentations are scheduled or assignments are due he or she is required to notify the instructor in advance, and upon returning to class, bring documentation of the illness, signed by a health care professional.
- Academic Accommodations: If you have a documented disability, you should contact the instructor during the first week of class, and contact Disability Support Services 0126 Shoemaker Hall. Each semester students with documented disabilities should apply to DSS for accommodation request forms which you can provide to your professors as proof of your eligibility for accommodations. The rules for eligibility and the types of accommodations a student may request can be reviewed on the DSS web site.
- Religious Observances: The University System of Maryland policy provides that students should not be penalized because of observances of their religious beliefs, students shall be given an opportunity, whenever feasible, to make up within a reasonable time any academic assignment that is missed due to individual participation in religious observances. It is the responsibility of the student to inform the instructor
of any intended absences for religious observances in advance. Notice should be provided as soon as possible but no later than the end of the schedule adjustment period. Faculty should further remind students that prior notification is especially important in connection with final exams, since failure to reschedule a final exam before the conclusion of the final examination period may result in loss of credits during the semester. The problem is especially likely to arise when final exams are scheduled on Saturdays.
- Dishonesty: The Student Honor Council observes that, "The University of Maryland, College Park has a nationally recognized Code of Academic Integrity, administered by the Student Honor Council. This Code sets standards for academic integrity at Maryland for all undergraduate and graduate students. As a student you are responsible for upholding these standards for this course. It is very important for you to be aware of the consequences of cheating, fabrication, facilitation, and plagiarism.
Thus, in GEOL431, work submitted under your name, even for extra credit, must unambiguously be exclusively your own. Any evidence of dishonesty on any graded assignment will result in a referral to the Office of Student Conduct, whereupon your life will become very interesting, indeed. Have a nice day. :-O
Course Evaluations: CourseEvalUM will be open for students to complete their evaluations during the last two weeks of the semester. Students can access CourseEvalUM through ELMS to complete their evaluations. You will be alerted about these dates and provided more information closer to that time, and students will be alerted via their official University e-mail account.
Students who complete evaluations for all of their courses in the previous semester (excluding summer), can access the posted results via Testudo's CourseEvalUM Reporting link for any course on campus that has at least a 70% response rate. You can find more information, including periodic updates, at the IRPA course evaluation website. The expectation is that all students will complete these. This is YOUR chance to anonymously evaluate this class: please use this opportunity!
Copyright: © 2019 John W. Merck, Jr. and Thomas R. Holtz, Jr. as to this syllabus and all lectures. Students are prohibited from copying and selling course materials, from selling lecture notes, and from being paid to take lecture notes without the express written permission of the faculty teaching this course.
Part I: Introduction and Context
|Week one (Jan. 28-Feb. 1):||
||Reading: Bonnan, Chaps. 1-2|
|Week two (Feb. 4-8):||
Part II: Vertebrate Diversity and Evolution
|Week two, cont'd.:||
||Reading: Bonnan, Chap. 3|
|Week three (Feb. 11-15):||
Homework I (Geologic Time & Phylogenetics) assigned
|Reading: Bonnan, Chaps. 4|
|Week four (Feb. 18-22):||
Homework I due
Bonnan, Chap. 7
Coates, (2013) Sharks and the deep origin of modern jawed vertebrates The Palaeontological Association 57th Annual Meeting Podcast.
Zhu, et al. (2013) The braincase and jaws of a Devonian "acanthodian" and modern gnathostome origins Nature 502, 188-193.
|Week five (Feb. 25-Mar. 1):||
Homework II (Basics of Osteology) assigned
Bonnan, Chap. 7
Bonnan, Chap. 8
|Week six (Mar. 4-8):||
Homework II due
Bonnan, Chap. 9
Bonnan, Chap. 10-11
Bonnan, Chap. 11
Coates et al., 2008. Ever Since Owen: Changing Perspectives on the Early Evolution of Tetrapods (with excellent illustrations)
|Week seven (Mar. 11-15):||
Bonnan, Chaps. 12, 20
Bonnan, Chap. 20
|Spring Break Mar.18-22|
|Week eight (Mar. 26-29):||
Homework III (Odontology) assigned
Bonnan, Chap. 19
Bonnan, Chap. 21
|Spring Break Mar.18-22|
|Week nine (Apr. 1-5):||
Homework III (Odontology) due
Week ten (Apr. 8-12):
Bonnan, Chaps. 13-14
Bonnan, Chaps. 14-15
Week eleven (Apr. 15-19):
Bonnan, Chap. 15
Week twelve (Apr. 22-26):
Bonnan, Chaps. 16-17
Wilberg, et al. 2019. Evolutionary structure and timing of major habitat shifts in Crocodylomorpha. Scientific Reports 9: 514 (2019). doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-36795-1
|Week thirteen (Apr. 29-May 3):||
Homework IV (Locomotion) assigned
Witton, M.P. 2017. Pterosaurs in Mesozoic food webs: a review of fossil evidence. Geological Society, London, Special Publications 455: 7-23. doi: 10.1144.SP455.3
Benson, R.B.J. 2018. Dinosaur macroevolution and macroecology. Annual Reviews of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics 49:379-408. doi: 10.1146/annurev-ecolsys-110617-062231
|Week fourteen (May 6-10):||
Homework IV due
|Week fifteen (May 13-14):||
* The instructors reserve the right to revise this schedule at their most trivial whim.
- The inspiration of three generations of paleontologists from an age where there could be an undisputed master:
Alfred S. Romer, 1966. Vertebrate Paleontology. University of Chicago Press. 468 pp.
- The ultimate resource for illustrations and morphology of fossil vertebrates:
Robert L. Carroll. 1990. Vertebrate Paleontology and Evolution. W. H. Freeman and Company. 698 p.
- A compact and accessible synthesis of current thinking on fossil vertebrates:
Michael J. Benton. 2014. Vertebrate Palaeontology. Wiley-Blackwell; 4 edition. 480 pp.
- The grand resource of the future - eagerly awaited:
Darren Naish. 201?. Working Title: The Vertebrate Fossil Record.
Additional reading on specific topics is cited in many lecture notes.
PDF version of the Syllabus and Lecture schedule available on ELMS Latest revision: 24 January 2019