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Bio325. Functional morphology of animals. Professor Glenn Morris -- emeritus To arrange meetings or just ask questions contact via e-mail: Office hour following Tues lecture ‘Office’ 2023B ( Tuzo Research Wing). Announcements.

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Functional morphology of animals


Professor Glenn Morris -- emeritus

  • To arrange meetings or just ask questions contact via e-mail:
  • Office hour following Tues lecture
  • ‘Office’ 2023B (Tuzo Research Wing).
  • Website:, can get there via portal: old labs not removed until Thursday
  • Lectures: Tues. & Thurs. 8 am 1140; selected topics posted on web
  • Sources: J. experimental Biology et al., books on reserve; no text
  • Labs: Tues, Wed., Thurs, Fri., 2-5 pm, 4068; Susan Dixon technician
  • Lab outline: downloaded each week from website; bring to class.
  • Dissecting: forceps as fine as possible, microscissors provided
  • TAs: Colin Demill, Lisa Robertson, Michele Taffs, RaaniSarkar
  •  Marking scheme

Midterm Test 20% -- Feb. 17Lab drawings &/or quizzes 10%Final Lab Practical 20%Final Exam 50%

course theme
Course Theme
  • This course is about the form of animal body parts and their behaviour: we explain how structures work with mental models: mental constructs. To decide how they work you often have to watch structures behaving. Organ behaviour is what an organ does. Wing behaviour is what a wing does.
  • ‘What a structure does’ can be said simply, e.g., a wing is a structure that flies or in a complicated way involving: models of lift, radial stop, pleurosternal muscles, etc.
evolutionary questions function adaptive consequence
Evolutionary questions: function: adaptive consequence
  • Why is an evolutionary question. Why has a structure evolved in a particular form? Inherited variations in structure come to predominate in a population because they allow the individual animals that have them to live and reproduce more successfully than their competitors. Structural features produced by selection in a certain context are said to be adaptations. Function is adaptive consequence. Features that have not been selected are said to be effects. Not every structure has been, or continues, subject to selection; e.g., vestigial (degenerate) structure is not being selected.
  • Naming parts: tentorium, femur, tibia, apodeme, muscular hydrostat, coelom, haemocoel, gut
  • Describing in words: basad, distad, promote, remote, adduct, abduct, anterior, pronate, dorsal, extrinsic, sclerotized, membranous, emarginate, strain energy storage, stridulation
  • Drawing: visual study, filtering, photographic records
imagine it otherwise
Imagine it otherwise
  • Alternative form: in deciding how a structure functions (and in arriving at hypotheses of adaptation) it is useful to imagine a structure in a form other than the way it appears now. And then to ask how it would work in this alternative form. Would it be as effective and how would it promote survival in the animal?
  • Human pinnae
  • Flatworm vs annelid as burrowers
  • Fish or birds with pinnae.
  • Broad fleas
  • Polar bears without fur
  • You need knowledge of animal phyla: some species, but mostly PHYLA. You should know the major phyla and their diagnostic features – their body plans [e.g., Phylum Arthropoda: exoskeletal, metameric (segmented) animals with tagmata, jointed appendages, ventral nerve cord etc. You should know the major structural differences between an arthropod and a vertebrate [e.g., Phylum Chordata: subphylum Vertebrata: endoskeletal animals, notochord, dorsal nerve cord, etc. Topics are diverse and beyond the theme the course can appear incoherent, though there is a trend as lectures proceed to go from locomotion (skeleton and muscle) toward feeding and digestion, circulation, gas exchange, then excretion, reproduction -- and finally nervous and sensory systems.
  • We underestimate the number of different species
  • There are over 5000 described species of crickets; >7000 described species of katydid
  • Comparing stridulatory mechanisms among these taxa: great diversity; there is no single mechanism for stridulation – no single katydid generator – no single cricket generator
  • Comparing gives insight into different adaptations; structural diversity offers clues to function: e.g., inflated tegmina.
  • Truss
  • Resists tension and compression
  • Anchors head corners


stridulation as structural adaptation
Stridulation as structural adaptation
  • Insect flight: tegmina, macropterous, brachypterous: change in function: evolution working with what is already there.
  • Montealegre-Z F., Morris G.K., Mason A.C. 2006. Generation of extreme ultrasonics in rainforest katydids. Journal of experimental Biology 209: 4923-4937.
  • Montealegre-Z F., Windmill J.F.C., Morris G.K., Robert D. 2009. Mechanical phase shifters for coherent acoustic radiation in the stridulating wings of crickets: the plectrum mechanism. Journal of experimental Biology 212: 257-269.

Original literature: Inside JEB