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Morphological Systematics (BiSc 216)

Instructor: Clark
Number of Credits: 4
Level of instruction: graduate
Description: Principles and methods of phylogenetic analysis of organismal morphology, expanding upon the introduction provided by BiSc 210 (Phylogenetic Systematics). The course is organized around the concept of homology, and the testing of homology provided by phylogenetic analysis. The first part of the course surveys methods and issues in the identification and description of features (characters) that differ among taxa, including quantitative (morphometric) methods. The second part covers theoretical issues concerning developmental change, allometry, the fossil record, and the integration of morphological and molecular data. Laboratories will examine methods of observing, measuring, and imaging morphology, and morphometric methods of comparing shapes.
How often is the course offered: Spring Semester every year.
What is the average enrollment: 9 students.
How broad a student audience is served by the course: We anticipate an enrollment of graduate students from GWU (Departments of Biology, Geology and Anthropology) and Howard University (Anatomy Department).

Course Syllabus

1) Historical foundations of homology

  • Aristotle, the scala naturae, and Geoffroy's principe des connexions
    2) What is "similarity"?
  • Remane's criteria; topological correspondence
    3) Homology and synapomorphy
  • Transformation and taxic approaches
    4) Characters, character states, and character state trees
  • Recognizing nested similarity
    5) Ordering character states
  • Recognizing degrees and levels of similarity
    6) Character state independence
  • Character complexes, character correlation
    7) Quantitative tests of character state distinctness
  • When are character states different?
    8) Iterative homology - serial "homology" and duplicated elements
  • Intra-individual similarity
    9) Functional morphology, behavior, and phylogenetics
  • Morphology in motion

    10) Rooting and polarity
  • Determining the level of generality of homologies
    11) Historical foundations of ontogeny and phylogeny
  • Von Baer, Haeckel, and the biogenetic law
    12) Ontogenetic rooting
  • Using ontogeny to polarize characters
    13) Ontogenetic "versus" outgroup rooting
  • Empirical comparisons of ontogenetic polarization
    14) Developmental processes and phylogeny
  • Studying the evolution of ontogeny

    15) The nature of the stratigraphic record
  • Telling time with rocks; stratigraphic ranges
    16) Fossils and "total evidence"
  • The importance of fossils in phylogenetic analysis; combining or partitioning data
    17) Missing data and transformed data
  • The effects of unknown data on phylogenetic analysis
    18) Cladograms and stratigraphy I
  • What, if anything, is an ancestor?
    19) Cladograms and stratigraphy II
  • Ghost lineages and ghost taxa
    20) Cladograms and stratigraphy III
  • Quantitative comparisons of cladograms and stratigraphy
    21) Inference of soft structures and behavior in fossils

    22) Morphometrics and homology
  • Introduction to quantitative measurement of similarity
    23) Accounting for size differences in comparative biology
  • Evaluating similarities among organisms of different sizes - what is size?
    24) Bivariate analyses
  • The allometric equation
    25) Principal Components and Factor Analyses
  • Variances and covariances
    26) Discriminant Function Analysis
  • Mahalanobis Distance
    27) Outline data
  • Fourier analysis
    28) Landmark data I
  • Procrustes methods
    29) Landmark data II
  • Thin plate splines