Introduction to Vertebrate Zoology


Learning Outcomes

On completion of the module, the student should have knowledge of the chemical structures and functions of:
● Amino acids and proteins
● Mono-, di- and poly-saccharides and lipids
● Nucleotides and nucleic acids and the relationship of structure to function

The student should be able to use data from UV/Vis spectra quantitatively.


The course is designed to introduce students to the molecules that make up the major components of living organisms. It will deal with the chemistry and structure of both the major macromolecules in biological systems and of the small molecules from which they are built, and will relate their structure to function.


The course will deal in turn with all the major types of compound found in living organisms. Particular aspects of chemistry will be explained when and where appropriate. In particular, aspects of stereochemistry and its importance in biology will be covered.

Monosaccharides (simple sugars) as the building units of all complex carbohydrates will be described together with their bonding in di- and polysaccharides and the relationship of the structures of polysaccharides to their functions. The function of polysaccharides as storage and structural components of animal, plant and bacterial cells will be covered.

Amino acids as simple organic molecules and their essential properties will be described. Their linkage by peptide bonding and importance in protein composition, will be dealt with, including examples of proteins as structural components and as enzymes.

Saponifiable and unsaponifiable lipids, and structural and dietary aspects of plant and animal fatty acids will be covered and will include the nature and occurrence of neutral fats and oils, waxes, phospholipids and sphingolipids. The role of phospholipids as the basis of lipid bilayer membranes, with unsaponifiable lipid (terpenoid) and lipophilic protein inclusions will be described.

The section on nucleotides will deal with their structure and chemistry and their role in the structure of nucleic acids, including the nature of hydrogen bonding and its importance in the complementary base-pairing in DNA.

Four practical classes will introduce laboratory methods for investigating the properties of biological chemicals and will deal with isolation and some charaterisation of DNA and also the properties of enzymes. The experiments with DNA will include some spectrophotometric analysis and one session will be devoted to calculations based on spectrophotometric problmes to aid the understanding of this technique.