Zoology (Vertebrates)

Course CodeBEN104
Fee CodeS3
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

Learn Vertebrate Zoology

Lesson Structure

  1. Vertebrate Taxonomy and Diversity Taxonomic classifications (Kingdom, Phylum, Division, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species).
  2. Fishes Fish Diversity (major groups):
  3. Ectotherms - Amphibians and Reptiles:
  4. Birds -Physiology (Structure) and Anatomy, Feathers, Colour, Legs, Skeletal structure, Muscles, Senses, Behaviour (Flight, Diving, etc), Egg formation, Hatching,
  5. Mammals (Mammalia)
  6. Marsupials -Subclass Theria
  7. Grandorders Glires and Insectivora
  8. Carnivores
  9. Hoofed Mammals (Ungulata: Includes seven orders)
  10. Primates and other Archonta.

Learn How Different Animals are Named (Scientifically)

In the 18th century a scientist called Carl Linnaeus began a revolution in the way we name living organisms, dividing everything into three Kingdoms; animals, plants and minerals. 
The Linnaeus system also organised living organisms into a series of different levels of classification, which he called ranks, that resulted in a tree like structure with the Kingdom at the base then diverging through the different ranks:

  • The Kingdom of animals was divided into Classes such a fish, mammals or birds.
  • Classes were divided into Orders
  • Orders into Families
  • Families into Genera
  • Genera into Species

Therefore, each species had a binomial name consisting of its Generic name with a capital and specific name. ie, domestic cat Felis (happy) catus (cat). Note: Scientific names are preferably italicised, but may be underlined. Each species could also 

Since the time of Linnaeus, there have been changes to how different organisms are classified, but the framework for classification has not changed. One change is that there are more kingdoms than there were originally.

Modern Science has Changed Taxonomy
With the use of genetics to determine phylogeny, increasing detailed knowledge of morphology and knowledge of the fossil record and geology; our understanding of the evolution of animal species is much more informed than in Linnaeus’ time At extremes some argue strongly for a “rank free” system of classification but the vast majority still broadly support and use the use of Linnaeus’ system. Nevertheless, scientists currently generally consider that the higher level ranks, above Order, consist of Domains Bacteria and Archaea (no distinct nucleus, bacteria etc), and the Eucaryota (distinct nucleus), which are for instance divided into the Kingdoms of animals, plants, protozoa and fungi.
The International Commission for Zoological Nomenclature acts as a global authority for managing the naming of animals internationally. They produce & manage any changes to an International Code for Zoological Nomenclature; which provides a central reference that all animal taxonomists can refer to. Because of the low cost of genetic analysis the description of a new species now must include a phylogenetic genetic analysis.  
As we learn more about animals (and plants); and understand the genetic, chemical and anatomical similarities and differences in ever increasing detail, our perception of the relationships between different organisms continues to grow. The current avalanche of knowledge has resulted in vibrant and sometimes heated debate among scientific schools of thought, especially in terms of higher classification (ranks), and generally more certainty and ironically sometimes uncertainty at the species level.  

Example - How Carnivores are Classified

The grandorder Ferae includes one single order: Carnivora; the Carnivores. This group includes dogs, wolves, bears, raccoons, cats, weasels, hyenas, seals, sea lions and walruses.  

Two living superfamilies of carnivores are usually recognised:

  • Arctoidea (or Canoidea), with the families Canidae, Ursidae, Procyonidae, and Mustelidae; and the
  • Aeluroidea (or Feloidea), with the families Viverridae, Hyaenidae, and Felidae.  The Pinnipedia includes families Odobenidae, Phocidae and Otariidae. 

The 12 carnivore families are the:

  • Canidae (dogs, jackals, fox, wolves)
  • Ursidae (bears, panda)
  • Procyonidae (raccoons, lesser panda)
  • Mustelidae (otters, weasels, badgers, mink)
  • Mephitidae (skunks-previously part of Mustelidae)
  • Viverridae (civets, genets)
  • Herpestidae (mongooses-often considered part of Viverridae)
  • Hyaenidae (hyenas, aardwolf)
  • Felidae (cats, lion, tiger)
  • Odobenidae (walrus)
  • Phocidae (true, earless, or hair seals)
  • Otariidae (eared seals, sea lions)

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