FHL/BIOL 536 | Summer B 2020

Comparative Invertebrate Embryology

Credits: 9

Instructor(s): Dr. Andreas Heyland , Dr. Billie Swalla


Comparative Invertebrate Embryology will use hands-on lab experience to introduce students to
the great diversity of developmental modes and processes found among marine invertebrates. The course will bridge cell and molecular approaches with ecological and evolutionary approaches to provide an integrated view of animal development. The course is intended to serve both biologists who wish to understand diversity in modes of development for ecological and evolutionary studies, and cell and developmental biologists who wish to broaden their knowledge of embryos beyond the standard model systems.

Photo: Michelangelo von Dassow

This course provides extensive laboratory experience with fertilization, embryonic and larval development, and metamorphosis of diverse animals. Phyla represented usually include the Porifera, Cnidaria, Ctenophora, Platyhelminthes, Nemertea, Mollusca, Annelida, Brachiopoda, Phoronida, Bryozoa, Echinodermata, Chordata, Chaetognatha, and Arthropoda.In addition to the basics of invertebrate reproduction and development, lectures will also include analysis of morphogenetic processes, evolutionary changes in development, and functional consequences of different modes of development.

Photo: Michelangelo von Dassow

Lab time will be devoted to obtaining, observing and documenting stages of embryogenesis. Lecture and lab practice will also introduce various techniques including (but not limited to) time-lapse microscopy, immunofluorescence, confocal microscopy or in situ hybridization, and biomechanical methods. Field collecting trips to diverse habitats will acquaint students with the environments in which reproduction and development occur and diverse sources of embryos.

Students will document and compare the development from fertilization to metamorphosis of numerous invertebrates during the course, recording their observations in lab notebooks. In addition to bright-field microscopy, students will learn to use simple optical techniques (e.g. dark field, polarization), vital staining, and advanced techniques such as confocal microscopy or in situ hybridization, to observe different features in the embryos and larvae. Students will also be encouraged to try simple experiments with embryos and larvae, focusing on everything from developmental mechanisms to function and behavior, and to describe their experiments in their notebooks. Possible examples may include biomechanical perturbations of morphogenesis, induction/inhibition of metamorphosis, cell ablation experiments, and many others.

Instructors for this course are:

Enrollment is limited to 15 students. No textbook is required for this course.