SURMACZ, Cynthia A.; Bloomsburg University: Animal Locomotion: Bringing Structure-Function Relationships to Life in the Introductory Biology Lab

This lab investigates one of the most striking characteristics of animals: movement. Movement is produced when nerves signal muscles to contract and exert a pulling force against a skeleton. There is great variation in the skeletal anatomy of animals. This reflects their type of locomotion and the nature of the forces (friction and gravity) that must be overcome in their environment. The goal of this 3-hour lab is for students to understand how form and function are related in animal locomotion. The lab consists of 3 parts. In Part I, Comparing Types of Animal Skeletons, students explore the form and function of hydrostatic skeletons, exoskeletons, and endoskeletons by examining their gross and microscopic anatomy, by observing living examples, and by investigating earthworm locomotion. In Part II, Locomotion in Vertebrates, students compare the skeletal adaptations necessary for locomotion on land, in water, or in air by examining representative examples at 6 stations: bony fish, amphibian, reptile, bird, quadruped and biped mammals. Student groups critically evaluate how variations in vertebrate skeletons lead to specific types of locomotion by observing animal skeletons and, where possible, locomotion patterns in living animals. Part III asks students to consider How Do Muscles Move Bones? Students explore how lever systems operate to produce movement in a chicken wing and examine the microscopic structure of fresh muscle tissue. This comparative locomotion lab dramatically illustrates the relationship between structure and function. This major biological theme is sometimes overlooked in more traditional freshman animal biology labs where phyla are examined separately and a comparative approach is not employed.