Introduction to Biology: Biodiversity


Part of the Introduction to Biology: Ecology, Evolution, and Biodiversity Specialization.

In the biodiversity course we examine the incredible variety of life that inhabits this planet including microorganisms, plants, and animals. For each of the major groups we’ll learn about their characteristics, functions, and how they came into existence as well as some of the roles they play in the natural world, and how they’re relevant to people. We’ll also take a close look at us humans and consider what we know about our origins and what might become of us in the future.

Module 1. What is Life and How Did it Begin?

  1. Be familiar with the various definitions of species used by biologists.
  2. Be aware of the different theories for how life began.
  3. Know what evidence exists for the origin of life on Earth.

Module 2. Prokaryotic Life

  1. Know the basic characteristics of prokaryotic life.
  2. Be familiar with the major groups of prokaryotes.
  3. Gain an appreciation for the role of the human microbiome.
  4. Be familiar with the discovery of antibiotics and how bacteria develop antibiotic resistance.

Module 3. Eukaryotic Life

  1. Be able to distinguish between prokaryotes and eukaryotes.
  2. Be familiar with some protists and how they affect people.
  3. Know the major groups of plants and the key innovations in plant evolution.
  4. Be familiar with the major groups of fungi and some of the ways they interact with other organisms.

Module 4. Invertebrate Animals

  1. Know the distinguishing characteristics of animals.
  2. Be familiar with how the Cambrian Explosion and the Permian Extinction affected animal evolution.
  3. Be familiar with Cnidarians and some of the roles they play in marine ecosystems.
  4. Be familiar with some of the key characteristics of Rotifers and the insights they provide about sexual and asexual reproduction.
  5. Be familiar with Molluscs and how the cephalopod eye compares to vertebrate.
  6. Know the key characteristics of Arthropods and some of the roles of insects in nature and human affairs.

Module 5. Vertebrate Animals

  1. Be familiar with the major groups of fish.
  2. Know the basic characteristics and major groups of reptiles and amphibians.
  3. Understand the amniotic egg's role in the life on land transition.
  4. Be familiar with the major groups of dinosaurs and their relationships to living animals.
  5. Understand how beaks and feet help birds adapt to various ways of life.
  6. Be familiar with the evidence for an asteroid impact that led to a mass extinction event at the end of the Cretaceous period.

Module 6. Mammals and Humans

  1. Be familiar with the major groups of mammals.
  2. Understand the role of horizontal gene transfer in the evolution of the placenta.
  3. Gain an appreciation for the diversity of Pleistocene mammals.
  4. Be familiar with the major groups of primates.
  5. Be aware of the fossil and genetic evidence for human evolution and how human evolution has proceeded into modern times.

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