Instructor: Dr. John W. Merck, Jr.
Office: Centreville 1218 (M, Tu) Geology 1119 (W, Th, F)
Phone: x5-4379
E-mail: jmerck@umd.edu
Office Hours: Thu 2-4 pm (Geology 1119) or by appointment

Link to minimalist ELMS page.

Texts:

Links:

COURSE ORGANIZATION: Two meetings per week (Tuesday and Thursday, 12:30 to 1:45). Tuesday's class will typically be a formal lecture, Thursdays will be divided between lecture and discussion.

CREDIT: Three credit hours. Counts as CORE Physical Science and GenEd DSNS.

Emphasis: At first glance, this course appears simply to be about the history of vertebrate evolution. In fact, there are several courses on campus that address issues of vertebrate anatomy, evolution, and diversity in greater detail than we will. If your true objective is simply to learn about fossil and living vertebrate diversity, you might look into BSCI392, GEOL204, GEOL331, or GEOL431. This course's real object is to explore the new, and still controversial, methods of phylogenetic systematics and Evo-Devo, by which modern evolutionary scientists have focused our picture of vertebrate history, and examine the connections between the evolution of species and the development of individuals. By the time you complete this course, you can expect not only to have digested many raw facts about vertebrates, but to have mastered a method of inquiry that will enable you to integrate those facts into a coherent, compelling pattern. In the process, you will place yourselves in the vanguard of an ongoing scientific revolution. Forward!

Class description and attendance policy: Attendance won't be taken, however lecture attendance is essential to success. Exams will be based on lecture material, reading assignments, and matters covered in discussion. Posted web notes are intended as a synopsis of lecture material only. If you miss a lecture you must get full notes from a colleague. Also, part of your grade (5%) is based on participation in discussions. Habitual failure to participate will result in the loss of these points. :-O

GRADES:

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

POLICIES

Preliminary Schedule

Part I: The Rock Record

Lecture and exam schedule:

Date TopicReading
1-25
  • Introduction, the nature of science, the Scientific Method and Linnean taxonomy

  • 1-30
  • The discovery of fossils and geologic time.

  • 2-1
  • Fossilization and the fossil record

  • Shubin, 2008: Chapter 1.
  • Bjornerud, 2005: Chapter 2.
  • The Geologic Time Scale: in its full glory and the stuff you have to know.

  • Part II: Evolution

    2-6
  • Darwin and evolutionary processes
  • Due: Homework 1
  • 2-6
  • Last day of add/drop

  • 2-8
  • The Anatomy of a Scientific Paper

  • Darwin, 1883: Introduction

  • 2-13
  • Evolution as pattern I

  • Baum, et al., 2005

  • 2-15
  • Evolution as Pattern II, The Iron Cladist
  • Laurin, 2010: Chapter 1, pp 1-26.

  • 2-20
  • Introducing Chordata I: Anatomy
  • Due: Homework 2

  • 2-22
  • Introducing Chordata II: Phylogeny.
  • Radinsky, 1987, Chapter 3

  • Part III: Making Babies

    2-27
  • Developing vertebrate bodies (embryology)
  • 3-1
  • Intro to the vertebrate skeleton

  • Shubin, 2008: Chapter 6.
  • 3-6
  • Head examination - Anatomy of the vertebrate skull

  • 3-8
  • In which we play with skulls
  • Due: Homework 3

  • Shubin, 2008: Chapters 4-5

  • 3-13
  • Class cancelled :-(
  • 3-15
  • Midterm exam

  • 3-18 through 3-25
  • Spring Break
  • Part IV: Enigmas

    Enigma 1: Mammalian Mysteries

    3-27
  • Semester Project introduced
  • Mammals within amniota

  • 3-29
  • Like pornography, we know them when we see them

  • Shubin, 2008: Chapter 10. (Everyone)
  • Oftedal, 2002. (Last names A - H)
  • Luo, 2007. (Last names I - O Focus on jaws and ears)
  • Rowe, 1996. (Last names P - Z Focus on jaws and ears)

  • Enigma 2: What, precisely, is an amphibian?

    4-3
  • Fingers and toes - tetrapods and life on land
  • Due: Homework 4

  • 4-5
  • Amphibians within Tetrapoda: life, love, and homology
  • Shubin, 2008: Chapters 2-3. (Everyone)
  • Clack, 2007: (Last names A - H)
  • Graham et al., 2014. (Last names I - O)
  • Witzmann, 2015. (Last names P - Z)

  • Enigma 3: "The serpent was more subtle than any beast in the garden"

    4-10
  • Reptile diversity

  • Due: Taxon list (with out-group) and Annotated Bibliography

  • 4-11
  • Last day to withdraw with a W

  • 4-12
  • "...more subtil than any beast..."
  • Due: Homework 5

  • Lee, et al., 1999. (Last names A - D)
  • Caldwell, 2000. (Last names E - G)
  • Gauthier, et al., 2012. (Last names L - M Read only the abstract and review the parts that deal with the phylogenetic position of snakes.)
  • Martill, et al., 2015. (Last names P - R)
  • Reeder, et al., 2015. (Last names S - Y)

  • Enigma 4: Monsters of Homology

    4-17
  • Archosauromorpha
  • 4-19
  • Chicken fingers and developmental identity
  • Feduccia et al. 2005 (Last names A - G)
  • (Last names H - K)- Your call.
  • Wagner and Gauthier, 1999 (Last names L - P)
  • Xu et al., 2009 (Last names R - Y)

  • Enigma 5: The Origin of jaws

    4-22
  • Field trip: National Zoo: Use Woodley Park - Zoo Metro. Rendezvous at Amazonia House at 2:00 PM.
  • 4-24
  • Jawless vertebrates - cancelled
  • Due: Character list and taxon-character matrix.
  • T.N.T.
  • 4-26
  • Jaws - cancelled
  • Enigma 6: The first bony fish

    5-1
  • The diversity of jawed vertebrates
  • Due: Preliminary draft of results

  • 5-3
  • The first bony fish
  • Shubin, 2008, Chapters 8-9. (Everyone)
  • Brazeau, 2009 (Last names A - M)
  • Zhu et al., 2013 (Last names N - Z)

  • 5-6
  • Field trip: U. S. National Museum of Natural History: Use Archives - Navy Memorial Metro. Rendezvous at the elephant's butt at 12:00 PM.
  • Bring a clipboard or hard-backed notebook to draw on!

    Enigma 7: Out of nowhere and out of everywhere

    5-8
  • Fear the Turtle

  • 5-10
  • How did turtles become fearful?
  • Due: Final project write-up

  • Reisz and Laurin, 1991. (Last names A - D)
  • Rieppel and deBraga, 1996. (Last names E - G)
  • Li, et. al. 2008. (Last names L - M)
  • Bever et al. 2015. (Last names P - R)
  • Schoch and Sues 2015. (Last names S - Y)

  • Finals week

    5-17 1:30 PM
  • Final exam


  • * The instructor reserves the right to revise this schedule at his most trivial whim.


    Bibliography