Invertebrate Animals

Study the anatomy, behaviour, taxonomy and physiology of microscopic through to larger animals - from worms and snails to arthropods and insects. Learn about invertebrate significance to human health and agriculture.

Course Code: BEN218
Fee Code: S2
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment
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Study the anatomy, behaviour, taxonomy and physiology of invertebrates.

Invertebrates are the largest group of animals on earth. Separated into 8 distinct phyla, they include octopodes, starfish, crabs, bees, butterflies, and more. Much of the earth's ecosphere and agricultural production is dependent on the actions of invertebrates.

In this course, you'll learn about:

  • naming systems and classification
  • key differences between small invertebrates and plants
  • invertebrate significance to human health
  • invertebrate significance to agriculture
  • and more.

Lesson Structure

There are 9 lessons in this course:

  1. Scope and Nature of Invertebrate Animals
    • Introduction
    • Significance to humans
    • Comparative studies - invertebrate animals
    • Important terminology
    • Overview of Invertebrate Phyla
    • Microscopic phyla -Tardigrada, Kinorhyncha, Loricifera, Placozoa
    • Worms - Acanthocephala, Annelida, Hemichordata, etc
    • Corals and relatives - Cnidaria, Ctenophora, Ectoprocta, Porifera
    • Echinoderms and Molluscs - Echinodermata, Mollusca, Brachiopoda
    • Complex Invertebrates - Arthropoda
  2. Microscopic Animals
    • Protozoa or Animalia
    • Phylum Nematoda
    • Mites
    • Phylum Tardigrada
    • Adaptability and Survival
    • Anhydrobiosis
    • Cysts
    • Phylum Kinorhycha
    • Phylum Loricifera
    • Phylum Placozoa
  3. Worms & Worm Like Animals
    • True worms vs Worm like organisms
    • Worm evolution
    • Bilateral symmetry
    • Cephalisation
    • Body organisation
    • Characteristics and systems showing complexity
    • Phylum Platyhelminthes (Flatworms)
    • Free living flatworms
    • Parasitic flatworms
    • Significance to Humans - Liver fluke, blood flukes, tapeworms
    • Beef tapeworm
    • Phylum Nematoda (Roundworms)
    • Phylum Annelida (Segmented Worms)
    • Other Worm Like Animals - Acorn worms, ribbon worms, Spiny headed worms, etc.
    • Coelomate Worms
  4. Sponges, Corals, Anemones, Jellyfish
    • Introduction
    • Phylum Cnidaria
    • Hydrozoa
    • Scyphozoa
    • Cubozoa
    • Anthozoa
    • Cnidaria and Humans
    • Phylum Ctenophora
    • Phylum Porifera - Location, Internal & External Structures, Reproduction, Toxicity
    • Classes within Porifera
    • Finding food
  5. Molluscs and Echinoderms
    • Phylum Echinodermata
    • Crinoidea - Sea Lilies and Feather Stars
    • Ophiuroidea -Brittle stars, Basket Stars
    • Asteroidea - Sea stars or Starfish
    • Case Study - Crown of Thorns Starfish
    • Echinoidea -Sea urchins, Heart urchins, Sea dollars
    • Chass Holothuroidea - Sea Cucumbers
    • Phylum Mollusca - general characteristics and types
  6. Arthropods 1
    • Classification into Arachnida, Crustacea, Myriapoda and Insecta (insects)
    • Origin
    • Terminology
    • Characteristic body parts
    • Ecdysis
    • Digestion, Respiration, reproduction and other systems
    • Phylum Arthropoda
    • Chelicerata (Chelicerates)
    • Arachnida (Scorpions, Spiders, Mites and Ticks)
    • Scorpiones (Scorpions)
    • Araneae (Spiders)
    • Acari (Mites and Ticks)
    • Opiliones (Daddy Long-Legs)
    • Merostomata (Horseshoe crabs)
    • Pycnogonida (Sea spiders)
  7. Arthropods 2
    • Terminology
    • Crustacea (Crustaceans)
    • Class Malacostraca -Crayfish, Crabs, Shrimp etc
    • Branchiopoda - Fairy shrimp, Water fleas
    • Cephalocardia
    • Remipedia
    • Maxilopoda
    • Sessile Crustaceans
    • Sub Phylum Uniramia - millipedes, centipedes and insects
  8. Insects 1
    • Origin of insects - winged vs non winged
    • Class Entogantha -Collembola, Diplura, Protura
    • Class Insecta
    • Insect features
    • Mouthparts
    • Insect classification into 29 orders
    • Specialised organs
    • Reproduction
    • Lifecycle
    • Senses - vision, comminication
    • Odonata -Dragonflies and Damselflies
    • Mantodea - Mantises
    • Orthoptera - Grasshoppers, Crickets, Katydids
  9. Insects 2
    • Significance to man
    • Clean air and water
    • Pollination by insects
    • Edible insects
    • Case Study - Grasshoppers save lives
    • Order Diptera - Mosquitos and Flies
    • Order Hymentoptera - Bees, wasps, ants, sawflies
    • Order Coleoptera - Beetles, weevils

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.

Aims

  • Describe the scope and nature of invertebrate animals; including similarities and differences between different groups of invertebrates.
  • Describe and compare the structure and function of animals that cannot be seen readily with the naked eye.
  • Describe and compare the structure and function of a variety of different worms and worm like animals.
  • Describe and compare the structure and function of a variety of different sponges, corals and anemones.
  • Describe and compare the structure and function of a variety of different molluscs and echinoderms.
  • Describe and compare the structure and function of a variety of different arthropods.
  • Explain the significance of arthropods to man
  • Describe and compare the structure and function of a variety of different insects.
  • Explain the significance of insects to man.

WHY YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT INVERTEBRATES

Invertebrates, like all living species, are required to locate and digest food, mate and reproduce, protect themselves, maintain internal bodily regulations and nutrients as well as remove waste products.  However, invertebrates do these vital ‘life’ tasks differently to vertebrate species. 

There many species of invertebrates yet to be identified and that is why it is such an exciting subject to learn as scientists are always discovering.  Many species are of use to humans with the assistance of food production and biodiversity, but also come with a negative as many can be vectors for disease.   

So why are there so many invertebrates and how do they maintain their high numbers?  Many species can survive in the most extreme environments on Earth.  Some are deep within the depths of the ocean and some can survive within the freezing temperatures of Antarctica.  Some species are able to switch into dormant mode to enable their survival within these extreme conditions.  Invertebrate species are small which allows them to easily avoid predatory species and being small also takes less feeding.  Some species have wings which enhances their survival.  The reproduction rates of invertebrates are very high with many species producing hundreds of eggs at a time.  Some females are able to store sperm and some species are parthenogenetic.  Also some species can go through metamorphosis which also assists in their population survival.  Invertebrates are very adaptable, not only to their environment but also having a shorter life cycle with a high reproductive capacity.  

Approximately 95% of all species from the animal kingdom form part of this group, which accounts for over 1 million known species. We could also say that approximately 80% of the invertebrates belong to the Phylum arthropoda.

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Course Contributors

The following academics were involved in the development and/or updating of this course.





Tutors

Meet some of the tutors that guide the students through this course.

Alison Pearce

Alison brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to ACS Agriculture, Wildlife and Ecotourism students.

She has worked as a University Lecturer, a Quality Assurance Manager, a Research Technician, and has also run a veterinary operating theatre; responsible for animal anaesthesia, instrument preparation, and assistance with surgical techniques and procedures. She has worked in the UK, Australia and New Zealand.

She has extensive experience of handling, husbandry, and management of a wide range of both small and large animals and has a particular love for nature and wildlife.

Timothy Walker

Timothy is a Botanist, Horticulturist and Gardener. He is an Author, and also a lecturer at Somerville College, Oxford. After training at a number of gardens including Windsor Great Park and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Timothy commenced work at Oxford Botanic Gardens in 1986. Appointed as "Horti Praefectus" (Superintendent/Director) there in 1988, he held that position until 2014. Under Timothy's watch, the garden won four gold medals at the Chelsea Flower Show, and developed 67 acres of MG5 wild flower meadow at the Harcourt Arboretum; a UK threatened habitat. Timothy remains an active practical gardener as well as a highly respected international academic in the fields of horticulture and plant botany.

Alexander O'Brien

Alex was born and raised in Cork, in the Republic of Ireland. Having been trained in Architecture, Permaculture, Mechanical Engineering, Ceramics, Furniture Design/Construction, Sustainable building and Art,Craft and Design, his knowledge base is broad. Much of his professional work has been designing and making nature inspired spaces, creative reuse of materials, permaculture and natural ecology regeneration.

That being said, in his own words, "....my real passion is teaching. I adore sharing my knowledge and experience. Seeing students progress, and learning, that is my soul food."'

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