Vertebrate Zoology Take-Home Essays Fall 2008



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Biology 3315


Vertebrate Zoology

Take-Home Essays

Fall 2008


General Information
You can choose only one of the four papers listed below for your summary. At the end of this document are the questions associated with each of the papers. Your essay is due at the beginning of the exam on Monday.


  1. Baum, J. K. R. A. Myers, D. G. Kehler, B. Worm, S. J. Harley and P. A. Doherty. 2003. Collapse and conservation of shark populations in the Northwest Atlantic. Science 299:389-392.




  1. Ereshefsky, M. 2002. Linnaean ranks: Vestiges of a bygone era. Philosophy of Science 69: 305-315.




  1. Donoghue, P. C. J., A. Graham and R. N. Kelsh. 2008. The origin and evolution of the neural crest. BioEssays 30:530-541.




  1. Holland, N. D. and J. Chen. 2001. Origin and early evolution of the vertebrates: new insights from advances in molecular biology, anatomy and palaeontology. BioEssays 23:142-151.


Format

Your essay must be typed. It is limited to the two pages and the pages must be stapled together. It must be double-spaced with a 12 point font and top, bottom and side margins that are at least 1”. Be sure to put your student identification number at the top of the page. DO NOT PUT YOUR NAME ON YOUR ESSAY! Points will be deducted if you do not follow this format explicitly.



Evaluation Criteria
Your essay should be directed toward imagined readers who are not familiar with the issue. The purpose of the essay is to develop a thesis statement about an issue and offer clear and logical support for your thesis statement. A good essay will enable the reader to clearly understand the issues being discussed, as well as your position on the issue.
The grading criteria for the essay are (1) accuracy of content, (2) comprehensiveness and balance, and (3) clear sentence structure with good transitions.
Accuracy of Content
This refers to facts presented in the essay. Unless explicitly stated, you do not need to cite specific literature in essays. However, you must be sure that the information is factual, based on credible sources of information.
Comprehensiveness and Balance
Comprehensiveness refers to the thoroughness of coverage of the issues, presence and clarity of the thesis statement, and how convincingly you support your thesis statement. Essays must address the major issues related to the essay topic. That does not mean that an essay considers every possible facet of an issue. There is not enough space for minor or tangential issues. The writer must decide what is important and write succinctly about those issues.
Balance has 2 components: 1) How much space (i.e. how many words) is allotted to each of the major issues that are covered in the body of the paper, and 2) How much space is allotted to the introduction, body and conclusion. Writers must judge the importance of each issue or concept and apportion space proportional to their importance. Writers must also make certain that the introduction, body, and conclusion are appropriate in length. The body should comprise the majority of the essay because that is where the issues are laid out and the supportive arguments developed. The arguments must convincingly support the thesis statement. The introduction must be brief, but provide an adequate introduction to the issues. Lastly, the conclusion is typically the shortest section. A good conclusion should provide a terse and unambiguous close to the essay, which is easier said than done.
Clear Sentence Structure with Good Transitions
Because essays are short in length, each sentence must be carefully arranged and edited for maximum clarity. This will not happen on your first attempt. It takes much editing to produce a succinct and clear essay. Concepts in essays should flow smoothly from one idea to the next. Therefore, good transition sentences are essential. Keep in mind that smooth transitions result more from clear organization than writing prowess. If an essay is well thought out, the ideas will naturally follow each other.
Nature of the “Questions”
For each of the readings, I have listed the major points that need to be addressed. These points should not be considered as an “outline” for your essay, but rather as a check list of key issues that need to be addressed.


  1. Baum, J. K. R. A. Myers, D. G. Kehler, B. Worm, S. J. Harley and P. A. Doherty. 2003. Collapse and conservation of shark populations in the Northwest Atlantic. Science 299:389-392.

After reading the article, compose a summary that addresses the following questions. When appropriate, incorporate material from your lecture notes or the Pough et al. text to support your answer.



  • How has fishing pressure impacted large marine predators?

  • How did the authors address the potential effect of fishing on shark populations specifically and what was the nature of the data they used to assess its effect?

  • What did they find?

  • Were the effects consistent across all species they investigated?

  • If there were differences, what factors might have influenced the differential effects?

  • What recommendations do the authors make?




  1. Ereshefsky, M. 2002. Linnaean ranks: Vestiges of a bygone era. Philosophy of Science 69: 305-315.

After reading the article, compose a summary that addresses the following issues. When appropriate, incorporate material from your lecture notes or the Pough et al. text to support your answer.



  • Ereshefsky argues that the Linnaean ranks we use in biology today are counterproductive and that we should use an alternative classification system. What is the logical structure of his argument? Do you find it compelling? If so, why? If not, why not? How would his proposed changes affect the structure of the cladograms we have used in class, particularly in terms of the terminal taxa?




  1. Donoghue, P. C. J., A. Graham and R. N. Kelsh. 2008. The origin and evolution of the neural crest. BioEssays 30:530-541.

After reading the article, compose a summary that addresses the following questions. When appropriate, incorporate material from your lecture notes or the Pough et al. text to support your answer.



  • Neural crest cells were identified by Gans and Northcutt in 1983 as a uniquely “vertebrate” type of tissue. Where do they come from and what do they do?

  • The authors review two lines of evidence that attempt to identify the evolutionary origin of neural crest cells. Summarize these two lines of evidence and their findings.

  • The authors also suggest that searching for the “origin” of neural crest cells is less instructive than a second line of investigation addressing a separate, but equally important evolutionary question. What is this question and where might it lead?




  1. Holland, N. D. and J. Chen. 2001. Origin and early evolution of the vertebrates: new insights from advances in molecular biology, anatomy and palaeontology. BioEssays 23:142-151.

After reading the article, compose a summary that addresses the following issues. When appropriate, incorporate material from your lecture notes or the Pough et al. text to support your answer.



  • Constructing cladograms involves incorporation of many differing character traits to assess the relative similarities and differences among taxa. The authors use molecular, anatomical and palaeontological evidence to make the case that Amphioxus-like organisms from the Cambrian are the first “proto-vertebrates. Summarize the differing lines of evidence.


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