Course description

Designed to introduce students to a comparative study of the principal organ systems of vertebrates (i.e., fishes, sea turtles, marine birds, marine mammals) that are specifically adapted to the marine environment. Rather than focusing only on description of anatomical structure, the anatomy of structures will be integrated with function, biological role, and evolutionary relationships. Laboratory exercises cover osteology, dissection, behavior and biomechanics.

Outcome 1: Identify structural adaptations of marine vertebrates from the various anatomical systems.

Outcome 2: How marine vertebrates cope with extreme environmental stresses with regard to diving, high pressure, and salinity.

Outcome 3: Examination of sensory modalities associated with the marine environment and depth, including vision, hearing, echolocation, pressure and electroreception.

Outcome 4: Mechanisms of animal movement by integration of structural mechanics, muscle physiology, kinematics and fluid mechanics.

Outcome 5: Demonstrate good dissection technique.

Outcome 6: Show independent thinking through development of a research project.

Outcome 7: Expose students to biomechanical analysis.

Outcome 8: Teach data analysis.

Outcome 9: Examine evolutionary pathways and selective pressures for the development of anatomical systems to function in the marine environment.

Outcome 10: Identify potential design elements from animals for transition to engineered systems using the biomimetic approach.

Offered in Maine at Shoals Marine Laboratory on Appledore Island. Contact the SML academic coordinator ( for specific Cornell requirements fulfilled by this course.


One semester of college level biology or equivalent.

Summer 2024: