About this Course
4.8
424 ratings
123 reviews
Paleontology: Early Vertebrate Evolution is a four-lesson course teaching a comprehensive overview of the origin of vertebrates. Students will explore the diversity of Palaeozoic lineages within a phylogenetic and evolutionary framework. This course examines the evolution of major vertebrate novelties including the origin of fins, jaws, and tetrapod limbs. Students also explore key Canadian fossil localities, including the Burgess Shale (British Columbia), Miguasha (Quebec), and Man On The Hill (Northwest Territories). Watch a preview of the course here: https://uofa.ualberta.ca/courses/paleontology-vertebrate-evolution...
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Suggested: 4 weeks of study, 3-5 hours/week

Approx. 6 hours to complete
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English

Subtitles: English, Spanish, Romanian
Globe

100% online courses

Start instantly and learn at your own schedule.
Calendar

Flexible deadlines

Reset deadlines in accordance to your schedule.
Clock

Suggested: 4 weeks of study, 3-5 hours/week

Approx. 6 hours to complete
Comment Dots

English

Subtitles: English, Spanish, Romanian

Syllabus - What you will learn from this course

1

Section
Clock
2 hours to complete

The Phanerozoic Begins

In this lesson we take you back to the beginning of the Phanerozoic Eon to learn what it truly means to have backbone, as we encounter the key anatomical features of vertebrates and their closest chordate relatives. We’ll also introduce the language of evolution – phylogenetics – as we examine some of the contenders for the title of ‘The Earliest Vertebrate’, and give you a crash course in sedimentology, so you can begin to piece together the spectacular environments that were home to our early aquatic ancestors. Just a quick note before you get started: 'Palaios' is the Greek word for 'ancient', so palaeontology or paleontology is the study of ancient life. Both spellings are correct, with palaeontology used in Britain, and paleontology more common in the US....
Reading
4 videos (Total 64 min), 6 readings, 1 quiz
Video4 videos
1.1 Vertebrate Origins22m
1.2 Vertebrate Environments23m
1.3 Diversity of Early Vertebrate Life15m
Reading6 readings
Instructional Staff10m
Meet Your Presenter: Scott Persons10m
Course Glossary10m
Acknowledgements10m
Interactive Learning Objects10m
Lesson 1 Course Notes10m
Quiz1 practice exercise
Module 1 Assessment (Graded)10m

2

Section
Clock
1 hour to complete

Learning to Swim

The old problem of the comparative anatomist was exactly how to compare two animals that appeared, at first glance, to look nothing alike. How, do you compare cows and lobsters? Well, in this lesson you’ll not only learn how to compare crustaceans and cattle, but you’ll also quickly learn that there’s more to a vertebrate than just a backbone as we delve into basic vertebrate anatomy. We’ll cover all the need-to-know anatomical terms and directions, as well as specialist features like the lateral line system, which not only helped early fish avoid predation, but is also the main reason why you find it very difficult to catch fish with your bare hands today! We will also explore the immense diversity of the jawless vertebrates including the tenacious Cyclostomata, the elusive Conodonta, and, long before Ankylosaurus, a group of heavily armoured jawless fishes – the ostracoderms....
Reading
3 videos (Total 53 min), 1 reading, 1 quiz
Video3 videos
2.2 Early Fish Types & Anatomy - Part 121m
2.2 Early Fish Types & Anatomy - Part 216m
Reading1 reading
Lesson 2 Course Notes10m
Quiz1 practice exercise
Module 2 Assessment (Graded)10m

3

Section
Clock
1 hour to complete

Learning to Bite

The Ordovician, Silurian and Devonian Periods were times of great continental, oceanic and climactic change that brought about the Earth’s first mass extinction events. With environmental catastrophes opening up new ecological niches, a trait evolved in early vertebrates that would prove so successful that over 99% of modern vertebrates still retain it: jaws. In this lesson we will try to understand the geographical and temporal background of early vertebrate diversity, as well as the impact and origin of the evolution of jaws on vertebrate life. Introducing huge predators such as Dunkleosteus along the way, we’ll explore the incredible diversity of the Gnathostoma (the jawed fishes), mainly from fossils known from the spectacular Late Devonian site of Miguasha in Quebec. So get ready for a lesson you can really sink your teeth into!...
Reading
3 videos (Total 49 min), 1 reading, 1 quiz
Video3 videos
3.1 Evolution of Jaws - Part 215m
3.2 Placoderms21m
Reading1 reading
Lesson 3 Course Notes10m
Quiz1 practice exercise
Module 3 Assessment (Graded)10m

4

Section
Clock
1 hour to complete

Learning to Walk

Although this lesson marks the end of the beginning of the vertebrate story, we still have some bones left to pick! In this last lesson we’ll look at the features of the Osteichthyes (the bony fishes) and examine the differences between two immensely successful vertebrate groups; one that conquered the water: the Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes), and one that eventually conquered the land: the Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fishes). We’ll investigate how the sarcopterygians gave rise to the tetrapods, meet our very first tetrapod ancestors like Acanthostega, and introduce the features that were essential in making the leap from water to land. Along the way we’ll meet some living fossils, see some incredible evolutionary adaptations, and learn about our earliest terrestrial origins – it’s time to step up and finish the tale of ‘Early Vertebrate Evolution’! ...
Reading
3 videos (Total 48 min), 1 reading, 1 quiz
Video3 videos
4.2 The Lobe-Finned Fishes18m
4.3 Primitive Tetrapods16m
Reading1 reading
Lesson 4 Course Notes10m
Quiz1 practice exercise
Module 4 Assessment (Graded)10m
4.8
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started a new career after completing these courses
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83%

got a tangible career benefit from this course

Top Reviews

By TOJun 21st 2016

WOW, I learned a lot form this and it was fairly educational but not overwhelming or difficult. This instructor really gets the points across without being to easy or hard. A very good class.

By JCMar 3rd 2018

Celebrate your inner fish as you swim along with this awesome course charting our earliest ancestors. Very well constructed and delivered once again by the team at the University of Alberta.

Instructor

Alison Murray, Ph.D

Associate Professor
Department of Biological Sciences

About University of Alberta

UAlberta is considered among the world’s leading public research- and teaching-intensive universities. As one of Canada’s top universities, we’re known for excellence across the humanities, sciences, creative arts, business, engineering and health sciences....

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Once you enroll for a Certificate, you’ll have access to all videos, quizzes, and programming assignments (if applicable). Peer review assignments can only be submitted and reviewed once your session has begun. If you choose to explore the course without purchasing, you may not be able to access certain assignments.

  • When you purchase a Certificate you get access to all course materials, including graded assignments. Upon completing the course, your electronic Certificate will be added to your Accomplishments page - from there, you can print your Certificate or add it to your LinkedIn profile. If you only want to read and view the course content, you can audit the course for free.

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