Vertebrate Morphology


Lab Schedule | Lab Guidelines


Structure List | Organ Systems


Lectures | Grades


Feline Martyrs


Updated 19 March 2007


Course Website and E-mail

You are expected to be thoroughly familiar with this website and to check it on a regular basis.  You also should check your Harding e-mail account regularly or have your email forwarded to an account that you do check.


Course Description

The comparative structure and function of the vertebrates including extinct forms.  The laboratory provides an intensive dissection experience.  Three hours of lecture and three hours of laboratory per week.



1. Kardong, K.V. 2006. Vertebrates: Comparative Anatomy, Function, Evolution. McGraw-Hill.

2. Sebastiani, A.M. and D.W. Fishbeck. 2005. Mammalian Anatomy: The Cat. Morton Publ. Co.

3. CatWorks: A Technological Dissection on CD-ROM (provided in S161)







Lecture Exam 1

11 Sep

K 1-5


Lecture Exam 2

9 Oct

K 6-10


Lecture Exam 3

30 Nov

K 11-14


Lab Exam 1

3 Oct

S&F 1-4


Lab Exam 2

5 Dec

S&F 5-9


Final Exam

11 Dec

K 1-14, 17


*The lowest lecture exam score will be dropped.


     Lecture exams, taken from my lecture notes and respective chapters in Kardong, will consist of straightforward testing of your recognition and knowledge of terms, structures, and functions, but also are designed to test your understanding of patterns of structural variation among the vertebrates and how the patterns relate to vertebrate phylogeny.  Lecture and lab are closely intertwined and thus you can expect questions from lab material on lecture exams and from lecture material on lab exams.  Lecture exams will be primarily scantron and lab exams will be primarily fill-in-the-blank.  Correct spelling is necessary for full credit on all exams.  Exams will be reviewed during the lecture or laboratory period following the respective exam date.  In addition, exams may be examined in my office for up to two weeks following administration.

Grades will be posted on the course website and it is the student’s responsibility to check his/her scores regularly.  Mistakes in posted exam scores must be resolved within two weeks of the exam date. 



     You very likely will do poorly in this course unless you attend class and study regularly.  For proper dissection, you can expect to spend an extra 1-2 h/wk outside of the regularly scheduled lab period.


Lecture Notes

A complete set of my lecture notes is available online.  I frequently update my notes, including after the semester begins.  It is your responsibility to ensure that the notes you print out are the same as the ones I use in lecture; the simplest way to do this is to compare date stamps. It is very important that you understand the purpose of lecture notes is to guide me in lecturing and to help you understand my lectures.  Lecture notes are not, in themselves, complete sources of information.


Guidelines for Reading Kardong

     Kardong’s text will (1) reinforce, (2) clarify, and (3) expand material presented in class.  Read each chapter as we cover it realizing that there will always be more material in the chapters than we have time to cover in class.  In each chapter, you should give most attention to the specific sections (especially the figures) that we cover in class, but do not ignore those sections that we do not cover.  Vertebrate morphology is a highly visual discipline and you will be expected to visually recognize specific structures from specific vertebrate taxa.

     Students often tend to view taxonomic nomenclature as unimportant or irrelative once they have been tested over it early in their undergraduate careers or early in a course.  You must resist this tendency because regardless of the chapter involved, it will always be important to understand the phylogenetic relationships of the vertebrates used as examples. For example, a working knowledge of vertebrate phylogeny often can provide answers on exams when you may not know anything about the specific morphologies involved (I have been known to invent hypothetical structures on exam questions!).

     In any anatomy or morphology course, unfamiliar terms often come fast and furious, and this course is no exception.  You would be wise to get in the habit early of using Kardong’s Index and Glossary.


Additional reading guidelines by chapter:

1.     Ch 2, 5.  We will cover these chapters quickly with much less detail than what is contained in the text.  You should read the chapters accordingly.

2.     Ch 4. The chapter on biological design is the student’s responsibility - we will not directly cover it in class.  However, the principles involved are essential in understanding vertebrate morphology.

3.     Ch 7. The vertebrate skull is conceptually the most difficult topic in the course and this chapter is tough!  Plan your study accordingly and begin reading early!

4.     Ch 9. The section on form and function is the student's responsibility.

5.     Ch 10. The section on muscle function is the student's responsibility.

6.     Ch 15-16. We will not cover these chapters in lecture for lack of time.  Some of the material will be covered in lab but you will not be tested over them in lecture.

7.     Ch 17. Because we will likely run out of time before we can complete, or perhaps even begin, the chapter on sensory organs, you should be prepared to cover it thoroughly on your own.  Some of the material will be covered in lab.  You are responsible for this chapter in lecture.



     As a Christian biologist and teacher, I believe I have a moral obligation to equip my students to be competitive in the workplace and post-graduate study.  To be fully equipped, a biology graduate must have a working knowledge of evolutionary theory.  I believe it desirable that students be exposed to evolutionary concepts by teachers who have a worldview that encompasses more than just the physical world subject to scientific investigation.  My personal worldview is a Christian worldview; in my teaching and research I approach evolution with the full recognition that God is the source of all life and the source of all processes that sustain and continue life. 

     In my classes I present evolution for the purposes of exposing students to the conceptual framework from which most professional biologists work, preparing students for programs that assume a working knowledge of evolution, and providing prospective secondary teachers the knowledge necessary to pass their licensure exam and to deal with questions they will face from their students, parents, and community. 

     If any student has concerns regarding my presentation of evolution, I encourage and welcome them to discuss the matter with me. – Mike Plummer


My Responsibility

Because, as your teacher, I have a substantial responsibility to you and to the Lord (James 3:1), I pledge my best effort to you in Biol. 261. I pray that my lectures will be clear, my expectations reasonable, and my exams vigorous, thorough, challenging, and fair. I also pray that your grade will reflect both your ability and your preparation. Finally, I hope that you will learn something substantive in my class regardless of what you think about the subject matter.  For further insight into my teaching philosophy, click here - Good luck!