UCL Module Catalogue


Vertebrate Palaeontology and Evolution (GEOL0009)

Key information

Faculty of Mathematical and Physical Sciences
Teaching department
Earth Sciences
Credit value
GEOL0003 History of Life is a prerequisite for this module.

Alternative credit options

There are no alternative credit options available for this module.


The course provides an introduction to the major vertebrate groups (jawless vertebrates, placoderms, cartilaginous fish, ray-finned fish, lobe-finned fish, early tetrapods, modern amphibians, lizards, snakes, turtles, crocodiles, dinosaurs, birds and mammals]. The core of the course concerns the anatomy and evolutionary relationships of these groups, which are examined through lectures, practical classes and museum tours. The course also uses vertebrates to illustrate two important aspects of palaeontological research: analytical methods and evolutionary processes. The methods introduced by these lectures include phylogenetic analysis, cladistic biogeography, taxic and phylogenetic diversity estimation, and the use of Finite Element Analysis in biomechanics. Students will also examine evolutionary phenomena such as exaptation and adaptation, heterochrony, extinction, adaptive radiation, and the influence of physical factors on evolutionary history.

By the end of this module students should:

  • show an ability to identify members of particular vertebrate groups;
  • be able to analyse the functional significance of particular anatomical features;
  • be able to apply phylogenetic and other analytical techniques;
  • have developed a more detailed understanding of key evolutionary events such as the end-Cretaceous extinction.

GEOL0003 History of Life is a prerequisite for this module.

Module deliveries for 2020/21 academic year

Intended teaching term: Term 1     Undergraduate (FHEQ Level 5)

Teaching and assessment

Mode of study
Methods of assessment
60% Unseen two and a half hour written examination
30% Unseen two hour practical examination
10% One piece of coursework (2,000 words)
Mark scheme
Numeric Marks

The methods of assessment for affiliate students may be different to those indicated above. Please contact the department for more information.

Other information

Number of students on module in previous year
Module leader
Dr Sebastian Groh
Who to contact for more information

Last updated

This module description was last updated on 5th March 2020.