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Module BSX-2017:

Module Facts

Run by School of Natural Sciences

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 2

Organiser: Dr Henk Braig

Overall aims and purpose

This module covers important topics of invertebrate biology with lectures and practicals. It traces the origins of invertebrates and follows the subsequent major advances in the evolution of aquatic and terrestrial groups. It considers oligochetes, nematodes and sister taxa in relation with the transition from sea to land. It emphasizes the importance of insects, it takes in aspects of development, diversity of reproduction and life history traits, parasitoidism, agricultural and medical entomology and social insects. Molluscs and water relationships are considered, the biology of spiders, scorpions and ticks are related to venoms and diseases. The biology and behaviour of cephalopods will be embraced. Analysing form and function will provide insights into whole organism biology, their social organization and behaviour. This module sees invertebrates as whole animals and tries to give a better and deeper understanding of their special features, ranging from the big picture of evolution, systematics and phylogeny, biodiversity, ecology, their importance for the living environment, features about developmental biology, molecular biology, physiology, behaviour and special attributes like venoms. It tries to combine subject areas to explain features of the biggest group of animals rather than splitting them.

Course content

Invertebrates were the first animals on the planet and formed the basis from which vertebrates eventually evolved. The first three lectures trace the evolution from the early beginnings of life until the formation of the first animals with a backbone. It will show that it took evolution three attempts to come up with a successful lineage of animals and it is still uncertain from which lineage of invertebrates vertebrates finally evolved. Early Beginnings Explosions Getting a backbone

The largest diversity of animals occurs on land. The most successful group of animals are the insects. They are also important in their interaction with their environment and with humans.

Transition to land


Insects 1 Importance
Insects 2 Development
Insects 3 Life histories
Insects 4 Parasitoids
Insects 5 Medical & Agricultural entomology

Social insects 1
Social insects 2
Social insects 3

Chelicerates & Molluscs 1
Chelicerates & Molluscs 2
Chelicerates & Molluscs 3
Chelicerates & Molluscs 4
Chelicerates & Molluscs 5
    Chelicerates: Spiders, Scorpions and Ticks: venoms and diseases
    Molluscs: water relationship, reproduction, molluscs and man

In the terrestrial environment (and marine with a few shrimps), invertebrates evolved a system of division of labour and reproduction that led to semisocial and eusocial insects and rodents. In the marine environment, a unique system of division of labour formed in colonial invertebrates, which does not have any equivalent on land.

Colonial invertebrates 1
Colonial invertebrates 2

Four practicals are associated with the module cover phylogeny, physiology and behaviour of invertebrates.

Arthropod phylogenies

Woodlice behaviour
Contact chemoreception
Habituation of diving response

The last three practicals work with living animals. While it is essential do have highly presciptive practicals where a student is expected to learn methods and techniques, these are not sufficient to train the students as future scientists. The last three practicals make a first attempt to address this.

Assessment Criteria


A threshold student should have a basic knowledge of the essential facts and key concepts relevant to invertebrate biology as presented in the module.


A good student should have a thorough factual knowledge across all aspects of the topics of invertebrate biology covered in the module.


A very good student should have a detailed and conceptual knowledge of the facts and concepts of invertebrate biology adequate for HE level 2.

Learning outcomes

  1. Demonstrate a conceptual understanding of processes of evolution, phylogeny, physiology and sociology of invertebrates. (Biosciences benchmarks: 3.2 subject knowledge & 3.5 intellectual skills)

  2. Demonstrate a conceptual understanding of the interaction of invertebrates with the environment. (Biosciences benchmarks: 3.2 subject knowledge & 3.5 intellectual skills)

  3. Develop an effective approach to exam revision by taking advantage of on-line test and writing practical reports. (Biosciences benchmark: 3.9 Self-management and professional development skills)

  4. Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of different facts and mechanism of invertebrate biology (Biosciences benchmarks: 3.2 subject knowledge & 3.5 intellectual skills)

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
Practical Report 1 - Arthropod Phylogenies 20
Practical Report 2 20
End of Module Online Exam 60

Teaching and Learning Strategy


Lectures. The core teaching consists of twenty one-hour lectures. Wherever appropriate, the lectures will be given in an interactive way where the students have to answer plenary questions or suggest examples or alternatives.


Formative feedback will come in three forms. During regular lectures, plenary questions will wake up students and inform them about their current comprehension. In the two-lecture-slot model described above, the students will come back to the facts learned in the lecture before and realise their level of understanding. Thirdly, during the course of the module, the students will have access to a large, randomised on-line test with rich visual aides under exam conditions that the students can take as often as they like. This test will provide feedback on their performance but will not provide individual answers, which will require the students to find the answers themselves. The fact that the test can be taken as often as desired and that the test is randomised and varied, creates in a number of students the perception of a game, in which they will not stop until they reach a 100 percent, meaning that they have become experts in a playful way.

Private study

Self study

Practical classes and workshops

Practicals. Four practicals introduce the students to behavioural observation, physiology, anatomy, and phylogenetics of invertebrates. In most practicals students will work in groups of two. Some of the practicals (contact chemoreception, phylogeny) are highly prescriptive in which the students have to follow a clearly outlined protocol, one (woodlice behaviour) offers room for the student to modify the protocol and obtain additional information, and in one practical (habituation), the students are confronted with a challenge and have to develop themselves an experimental procedure in order to investigate a behavioural response.


Subject specific skills

  • Develop and identify research question(s) and/or hypotheses as the basis for investigation.
  • Conduct fieldwork and/or laboratory work competently with awareness of appropriate risk assessment and ethical considerations
  • Recognize and apply appropriate theories and concepts from a range of disciplines.
  • Consider issues from a range of interdisciplinary perspectives.
  • Apply subject knowledge to the understanding and addressing of problems.
  • Collect, analyse and interpret primary and/or secondary data using appropriate qualitative and/or quantitative techniques.
  • Engagement with current developments in the biosciences and their application.
  • Appreciation of the complexity and diversity of life processes through the study of organisms.
  • Undertake field and/or laboratory studies of living systems.
  • Undertake practical work to ensure competence in basic experimental skills.
  • Demonstrate awareness of the importance of risk assessment and relevant legislation


Resource implications for students


Reading list

Only list of reference books will be determined at the beginning of the module.

Courses including this module

Compulsory in courses:

Optional in courses: