Tracing Back Our Ancestry

As an upperclassman, you start to delve more into classes that pertain to your field. Junior and senior marine biology students take classes such as comparative vertebrate anatomy (CVA), ecological modeling, marine ecology and marine biology. These classes are meant to capture our interest and make us really understand why we wanted to be marine biologists in the first place. CVA is one of the most beneficial classes I’ve taken so far.

Comparative vertebrate anatomy focuses on the evolution of different physiological structures throughout organisms. We look at several model species to compare their anatomies. The lecture for this class is light, upbeat and interesting. Dr. Turingan really knows how to tie the lecture into our personal interests so that it’s not just a boring memorization class.

The laboratory for CVA is one of the only labs I look forward to during my week, despite the fact it’s on Monday nights from 6-10 p.m. I’m a very hands-on type of person. I enjoy being out in the field and being able to just physically be around the organisms that I study. CVA lab is challenging—there’s no doubt about that—but it’s also entertaining and fun.

During the few weeks of CVA lab, we looked at the skeletal structures of several different organisms including the shark, the mudpuppy, the cat, the turtle and the alligator. This past week we started looking at the muscles, which required dissections. Before we could look at any muscles, we had to skin the mudpuppy and the shark, which was not quite as easy as it seemed. Our TAs challenged us to get the skin of the mudpuppy off in one piece in return for an extra 5 points on our practical. Challenge accepted!

My group got the skin off in one piece and successfully identified all of the muscles for the laboratory, making us feel pretty successful. Tracing the origin of different anatomies back to distant relatives is fascinating. It definitely makes you respect what you have and marvel how marine biology can really change populations.

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