Exploring the Animal Kingdom

Course details

From £205.00
10 CATS points

25 Apr 2019 - 27 Jun 2019
Day of week

Exploring the Animal Kingdom


Animals exist in a large diversity of forms with each having evolved morphological and functional traits that enhance their survival and reproduction. In this course we will look at animals across the board from lowly worms and insects to whales and primates. You will learn how the different animals relate to each other in the tree of life and how physiological, morphological and behavioural adaptations have evolved since the first complex cells appeared around 1.5 billion years ago.

In the first few sessions we cover basic zoology by studying the animal cell, the theory of evolution by natural selection, the development of the basic animal body plan and animal classification and taxonomy. In the remainder of the course , you will get an overview of the physiology, morphology, behaviour and natural history of each of the major animal groups starting with the most primitive inverterbrates and finishing with the mammals. Towards, the end of the course we will visit the world-renowned Oxford University Museum of Natural History to get a practical insight into the fascinating disversity and  adaptations found in a range of different groups.

Programme details

Term Starts:    25th April


Week 1:          The animal cell, molecular biology and development

Week 2:          Evolution, genetics and phylogeny

Week 3:          Lower invertebrates and  an introduction to reading scientific papers

Week 4:          Worms and Molluscs

Week 5:          Arthropods I - Crustaceans and arachnids

Week 6:          Arthropods II - Insects

Week 7:          Primitive chordates and fish

Week 8:          Amphibians and reptiles

Week 9:          Trip to Oxford University Museum of Natural History

Week 10:        Birds and Mammals


Background Reading:

Holland, P. The Animal Kingdom: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions). Oxford University Press. 2011


If you are planning to purchase books, remember that courses with too few students enrolled will be cancelled. The Department accepts no responsibility for books bought in anticipation of a course.

If you have enrolled on a course starting in the autumn, you can become a borrowing member of the Rewley House library from 1st September and we will try to ensure that as many titles as possible are available in the Library by the start of each term. If you are enrolled on a course starting in other terms, you can become a borrowing member once the previous term has ended.

Recommended reading

All weekly class students may become borrowing members of the Rewley House Continuing Education Library for the duration of their course. Prospective students whose courses have not yet started are welcome to use the Library for reference. More information can be found on the Library website.

There is a Guide for Weekly Class students which will give you further information. 

Availability of titles on the reading list (below) can be checked on SOLO, the library catalogue.

Recommended Reading List


Students who register for CATS points will receive a Record of CATS points on successful completion of their course assessment.

To earn credit (CATS points) you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee per course. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Coursework is an integral part of all weekly classes and everyone enrolled will be expected to do coursework in order to benefit fully from the course. Only those who have registered for credit will be awarded CATS points for completing work at the required standard.

Students who do not register for CATS points during the enrolment process can either register for CATS points prior to the start of their course or retrospectively from between January 1st and July 31st after the current academic year has been completed. If you are enrolled on the Certificate of Higher Education you need to indicate this on the enrolment form but there is no additional registration fee.


Course Fee: £205.00
Take this course for CATS Points: £10.00


Dr Thomas Hesselberg

Thomas is a zoologist who has studied spiders, insects and worms for more than 15 years in both temperate and tropical climates. In addition to his teaching for OUDCE, he is a lecturer in biological sciences at St. Anne's College.

Course aims

To explore the diversity of animals found on Earth and to develop an understanding of how  the anatomy and natural history of the different species relate to each other and have been shaped by evolution.

Course Objectives:

1. To get an overview of the diversity of animals groups and understanding basic concepts of taxanomy and animal classification.

2. To get an introduction to the different disciplines within zoology including cell biology, genetics and evolution.

3. To understand how the anatomy, morphology and behaviour  of different animal groups are shaped by evolutionary pressures and constraints.

Teaching methods

The course objectives will be taught via lectures, discussions of published research, and small practical activities including a visit to the Oxford University Natural History Museum. Each weekly class will consist of lectures followed by, or interspersed with interactive sessions. The learning environment will be informal allowing students to ask questions throughout the lectures.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course students will be expected to:

1. Have a basic understanding of cell biology, genetics, evolution and animal development.

2. Appreciate the diversity of animal forms and understand how their morphology and anatomy have been shaped by evolution and be familiar with animal classification and phylogenetic trees.

3. Understand the scientific method and be able to read and understand scientific research papers in zoology.

Assessment methods

The assessment will consists of a portfolio of two short-answer assignments and a mini-essay (Option A).

The first short-answer assignment will be handed out at the end of week 4 and will consist of 8 questions on the topics covered in weeks 1-4. Similarly, the second short-answer assignment will consists of 8 questions on the topics covered in weeks 5-8.

For the mini-essay, the students will be asked to write a short essay (up to 1000 words) on the systematics and general characteristics from an evolutionary viewpoint of a taxonomic group or a single species of the student's choice. The essay is expected to include at least one reference to a scientific paper. In addition, students can submit an optional outline of their essay (500 words)  in week 6  and get feedback within a week.

Students must submit a completed Declaration of Authorship form at the end of term when submitting your final piece of work. CATS points cannot be awarded without the aforementioned form.


To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee for each course you enrol on. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please complete an application form.

Level and demands

Most of the Department's weekly classes have 10 or 20 CATS points assigned to them. 10 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of ten 2-hour sessions. 20 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of twenty 2-hour sessions. It is expected that, for every 2 hours of tuition you are given, you will engage in eight hours of private study.

Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS)