5 UNITS, LAB
Look almost anywhere on earth and you'll find invertebrates living there. They range in size from microscopic mites to giant squid that weigh a couple of tons. Some invertebrates rival fishes as itinerant pelagic wanderers, while others live attached to one spot, never going anywhere at all. There are invertebrates whose lives last less than a day, while others live for centuries. Invertebrates such as mosquitoes or houseflies are irritatingly familiar and spiders evoke irrational fear despite their beneficial role in nature's economy. Still others such as shrimp, crabs, lobster, sea urchins, squid, and clams are important sources of food. Fleas have changed the course of history as vectors of disease, while some insects wreak havoc as agricultural pests. But most invertebrates go quietly about their day-to-day lives unnoticed by all but a mere handful of specialists. Yet no matter what yardstick you use to measure life on earth, you’ll find at least a few invertebrates at every extreme and many more everywhere else in between.
Life on earth began in the sea and most animal phyla were already established & diverse by the time the first hearty colonists crawled up on to land over 400 million years ago. Today, the land is dominated by just two groups: vertebrates (especially mammals & birds) and arthropods (mostly insects & arachnids), so the sea remains the bastion of high-level biodiversity on earth. Of the 35 different kinds of animals, all but one live in the sea. Indeed, some such as corals & sea anemones or sea stars & sea urchins never left. So, in many respects both academic and esthetic, the ideal place to study invertebrates is at the seashore.
In this course we examine the diversity of invertebrates, exploring the myriad ways in which they meet a common set of problems. What do they look like? Where do they live? What do they eat? How do they reproduce? To keep all this from becoming just a grab bag of unrelated facts, we arrange it all on a framework of evolutionary relationships, noting which phyla are basal and which are derived (and how we know).
Each week, we spend an afternoon in lab looking at living specimens from whatever group we're discussing in lecture. Monterey Bay provides a huge array of species to illustrate what we talk about in lecture. Watch a tiny flatworm glide across a delicate hydroid colony. See how a blind, deaf, and sedentary anemone nevertheless hunts effectively as a predator. Figure out how a sea star on its back rights itself (how does it even know which way is up?). Watch a limpet rasp its lunch from the glass wall of an aquarium. No smelly, pickled, colorless, lifeless things poured out of jars here. We only deal in squirming, wriggling, silent gliding living things in our labs.
Some would say invertebrate zoology is an old-fashioned course, but it's really one of the essentials for your growth as a biologist. If you don't know what kinds of animals there are, how can you decide which questions are most relevant? How can you make decisions about conserving biodiversity? How will you know where you can best make your own contribution to our knowledge if you don't know what we know already? Familiarity with the animals living all around you will greatly enrich your experience of nature and pique your curiosity, be it walking through an exotic rain forest, snorkeling on tropical coral reef, or just getting down on your hands and knees on your lawn and looking around with a magnifying glass. So come join us. This course will open your eyes to the living world around you.
Syllabus Slide Show Watanabe