Paleontology: Early Vertebrate Evolution

Paleontology: Early Vertebrate Evolution content aligns with parts of the Alberta curriculum for Science 7 and 20 and Bio 20.

Take online for free

A non-credit version of the program is available through Coursera starting September 12th.

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Take for 1 credit as PALEO 202

For U of A students:

Students can sign up for PALEO 202 for 1 credit in Bear Tracks.

Course Preview

Topics Covered

LESSON 1: The Panerozoic Begins

Examine the origins of vertebrates in the fossil record.

LESSON 2: Learning to Swim

Explore the evolution of fins and flukes in the early "jawless fishes."

LESSON 3: Learning to Bite

Examine the evolution of vertebrate teeth and jaws.

LESSON 4: Learning to Walk

Examine the evolutionary changes accompanying the transition from aquatic to terrestrial habitats in vertebrates.


3-5 hours per week


Alison Murray is an Associate Professor at the University of Alberta in Canada. She works on fossil fishes, focusing on problems regarding the anatomy and evolutionary relationships of Cretaceous and Cenozoic groups and the origin of our modern ichthyofaunas.

About the Course

Paleontology: Early Vertebrate Evolution is a four-lesson course teaching a comprehensive overview of the origin of vertebrates.

Students will explore the diversity of Palaeozoic lineages within a phylogenetic and evolutionary framework. This course examines the evolution of major vertebrate novelties including the origin of fins, jaws, and tetrapod limbs.

Students also explore key Canadian fossil localities, including the Burgess Shale (British Columbia), Miguasha (Quebec), and Man On The Hill (Northwest Territories).

Sign up now

Take the course for free & explore the evolution of early vertebrates.


Questions about Coursera? MOOC content? Registration?

Contact the facilitator Gavin Bradley at

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Non-U of A Students

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