Anatomy and Function of Marine Vertebrates

Course Dates

June 13, 2022 to June 27, 2022


One semester of college-level biology or equivalent.

Equivalent Note

Cornell students: Biology & Society majors, this course fulfills the (II) Foundation Courses > (C) Biology Foundation > Biological Diversity requirement.

Course Description

Photo of students at the dissection table during Anatomy and Function of Marine Vertebrates

Students examine the anatomy of a harbor seal as they participate in marine mammal necropsies. Photo by Stacy Farina

In this course, students will study structure, evolution, physiology, and biomechanics to investigate how vertebrates use anatomy to interface with the marine environment. Activities include marine mammal necropsies, trawling, whale watching, trips to the intertidal, and visits to nearby seal and seabird colonies. Each student will complete an independent research project on a topic within the field of anatomy and function.

Learning outcomes for this course include:

  • Identify structural adaptations of marine vertebrates from the various anatomical systems;
  • Demonstrate good dissection technique;
  • Understand mechanisms of animal movement by integration of structural mechanics, muscle physiology, kinematics and fluid mechanics;
  • Examine evolutionary pathways and selective pressures for the development of anatomical systems to function in the marine environment.

Internship opportunity: This course is recommended experience for SML's Marine Mammal Internship.

"This two-week course prepared me more for med school than any other college class I took!" - Maya Koretzky (AFMV '11, AFMV TA '12)


Dr. Nicholas Gidmark:

Assistant Professor, Biology Department, Knox College

Check out this article (and video) about mummichog locomotion conducted by Dr. Stacy Farina and Noah Bressman (SML '11, '13, Cornell '16). Noah began this project as a student in Anatomy & Function of Marine Vertebrates, and it turned into an undergraduate thesis and a published scientific paper.

Click here to read: "Back-Flipping Fish Look Before They Leap Across Land"

Course Video

Dr. Stacy Farina filmed this amazing video of a Goosefish exhaling out of its "armpit." So cool!



Course Numbers

Cornell: BIOSM 3210 (3 Credits)
UNH: MEFB 754 (4 Credits)