BSc Biochemistry / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Animal Diversity

Course unit fact file
Unit code BIOL21221
Credit rating 10
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? No


There are estimated to be over 7.7 million species of animal in the world. In this unit we explore the diversity of animal life on earth from molluscs to insects, reptiles to mammals. Throughout will we ask how and why do we classify animals into groups, what are their characteristics that define them, and what does this tell about evolution? This unit also includes a hands-on session at the Manchester Museum, which has a huge natural history collection and a vivarium.


To provide students with an overview of some of the major animal groups. A brief introduction will be given to evolution before the major groups are described in terms of their structure, phylogeny, adaptations and characteristics. This unit is ideal for Biology, Zoology, & Genetics students as well as those taking more organismal focused degrees and options and Geology students interested in palaeontology.

Learning outcomes

Students will be able to:

  • Appreciate how evolutionary forces act to create complex biological systems
  • Gain knowledge of the similarities and differences between vertebrate & some key invertebrate groups: anatomy, functional morphology, behaviour & diversity
  • Apply evolutionary concepts to understand the evolution of major animal groups.


•       Course Introduction

•       The origin of animals

•       Why sponges are animals

•       The Cambrian ‘explosion’

•       Bilateria

•       Molluscs and worms

•       Ecdysozoans - tardigrades and lobopods

•       Arthropods I - chelicerates

•       Arthropods II - crustaceans and myriapods

•       Arthropods III - insects

•       Chordates - vertebrate beginnings

•       Fish I - diversity of fish

•       Fish II- evolutionary transitions of fishes

•       Water to Land - early tetrapods

•       Amphibians

•       Amniotes - the amniotic egg & non-avian reptiles

•       Birds

•       Mammals I - mammal origins

•       Mammals II - primates & human evolution

Employability skills

Analytical skills
Students will complete an MCQ test
The museum assignment allows students to choose an animal and an adaptation to discuss.
Project management
Students must complete a museum assignment over a period of 9 weeks.
Oral communication
There is a museum assignment session, where staff interact verbally with students. Students are also encouraged to ask questions during lectures.
Problem solving
The museum assignment requires the students to formulate a hypothesis and then design an experiment to test it.
Students must compare and contrast animal specimens housed in the museum and design an experiment to test their findings as part of their museum assignment.
Written communication
Museum assignment project and short answer, and essay questions in examination.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written assignment (inc essay) 50%
Set exercise 50%

Written assignment - 50%, MCQs exam - 50%

Feedback methods

Feedback will be given throughout the course.  Detailed written feedback will be given for museum assignments. Written or oral one-one feedback is available by emailing the unit coordinator.

Recommended reading

Additional References to journal articles will be given in lectures.

Recommended Reading

  1. Barnes, Calow, Olive, Golding Spicer, The Invertebrates: a Synthesis, Blackwell Publishing, 2002, Recommended
  2. Hickman, Roberts, Keen, Larson, Eisenhour, Animal Diversity, McGraw-Hill, Recommended
  3. Holland, The Animal Kingdom: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford University Press, Recommended
  4. Kardong, Vertebrates: Comparative Anatomy, Function, Evolution (4th edition), McGraw-Hill, 2006, Recommended

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 22
Independent study hours
Independent study 78

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Ben Chapman Unit coordinator

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