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Zoology: Understanding the Animal World

Join a zoologist at the Smithsonian's National Zoo for 24 lectures that reveal the scientific marvels of animal life on our planet.
Zoology: Understanding the Animal World is rated 3.8 out of 5 by 53.
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Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good course overall, would be even better if it would have more pictures.
Date published: 2023-09-05
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Recommended despite flaws Dr. Moore’s delivery is dry and wooden and can’t seem to enunciate the first “c” in words like arctic and Antarctica. So that detracts from what otherwise is a fascinating course. Some of the guest interviewees, like Pete Marra, are far more articulate, and one wishes they presented more of the course. Dr. Moore was much better in the last lecture which was more conversational. Substantively, this is a broad overview of the animal kingdom and its issues, with an appropriate emphasis on ecology and conservation. Recommended, despite flaws in the delivery.
Date published: 2023-07-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fun Class I enjoyed this one the most! I love learning about animals and their conservation - wonderful to hear about some species making a comeback. I was inspired to put in a butterfly garden. Good luck with all that you do!
Date published: 2023-01-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Finding this course fascinating! I am excited to be learning so much. I didn't even know that corals are animals. I plan to watch every episode. I worked through the Botany course from beginning to end and I hope I can do the same with this one.
Date published: 2022-09-18
Rated 2 out of 5 by from The title "Zoology" is deliberately misnamed This "course" is primarily a manipulative political advertisement for conservation of "endangered" species. Most of the animals discussed in the "course", such as panders, are indicated to be endangered animals. Discussion about the chosen animals is more about how to "save them" than about their zoology. Loaded words such as "threatened" are frequently used, but not mentioning humans being threatened by animals. He either recommends or implies recommending bringing vicious carnivores, such as wolves, tigers and lions that can and will kill and eat humans easily into contact with people. Undoubtedly, because of people such as him, a child was killed and eaten by an alligator in a very popular place in Florida a few years ago. Typically, when he shows such carnivores in the "course" he typically shows them as cute baby animals or as friendly adult animals. In almost every lecture he recommends helping to save "endangered" animals - that is use of a repeated manipulative advertisement. The zoological science that he discussed is almost entirely a pretext for his political viewpoints such as over population of humans. His viewpoint that we should have less humans, but more animals is discussed throughout the entire "course". He tries to make that thinking okay by him showing pictures of beautiful happy (human) families having two children. Because this "course" is so extremely manipulative, very misleading and only a small amount about science, I do not recommend this course for children or as a first course in Zoology in college, as the title implies it is. Children and even some adults can easily come to believe that vicious carnivores are good friends of humans, and it is okay to approach them. An example that he manipulatively describes is when he was out looking for tigers: He implies that he was by himself and unarmed. When he got back to camp, he indicates he smelled a strong odor which most probably was a hidden tiger. It is doubtful that he was alone and without a powerful gun. If what he implied was true, what he should have said was that he was extremely stupid for taking such a lethal risk. Throughout the course he continues with the same viewpoint by indicating recommending reintroducing vicious carnivores into places where humans are present in moderate or even high density. There were some scientific discussions that were discussed and hence I did not entirely pan the course as I indicated in the Overall Rating.
Date published: 2022-06-25
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great overview of zoology! This is a comprehensive course that covers a wide variety of topics in zoology. It is geared at novices and mainly gives an overview of each topic, rather than delving deep into each one. That's great for helping steer learners in the direction that they might choose to further their education. I especially appreciated the conservation tips at the end of each lecture. I would definitely recommend this course if you are looking for a general overview of zoology or as a refresher.
Date published: 2022-06-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Makes excellent connections As a Master Naturalist, this topic fascinated me, and I was pleased that it made connections between various groups of critters plain without going into extensive detail. The course does focus a lot on the role of zoos, especially the Smithsonian National Zoo, and how those institutions are teaching us the interconnectedness of nature and the need to understand how conservation can take place, and why. The introduction of specialists is a fine addition to the presentations.
Date published: 2022-05-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Informative and enjoyable course I absolutely love this course. It is informative and enjoyable.
Date published: 2022-01-08
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In Zoology: Understanding the Animal World, The Great Courses teams up with the Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute for 24 lectures that take you behind the scenes of the animal world. Dr. Donald E. Moore III brings you up close and personal with a breathtaking variety of animal species, from butterflies to crocodiles to pandas.


Donald E. Moore III

While most the time, the public sees a zoo as an entertaining and educational way to spend a Saturday afternoon-and it very much is-your average accredited zoo is also a vital part of research and conservation activities going on across the world.


Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute

Dr. Donald E. Moore III, director of the Oregon Zoo and senior science advisor at the Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, is a conservation biologist with nearly 40 years of experience in wildlife conservation, animal welfare, and zoo management. He earned a bachelor's degree in Wildlife Management and Zoology and a doctoral degree in Conservation Biology from the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry.

Dr. Moore worked at the Smithsonian's National Zoo from 2006 to 2016. He was the associate director of Animal Care Sciences from 2006 to 2014 and served as a senior scientist for conservation programs on assignment with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. In his time at the Smithsonian's National Zoo, Dr. Moore helped implement major renovations, such as the Elephant Trails and American Trail exhibits.

Prior to joining the Smithsonian, Dr. Moore worked at the Wildlife Conservation Society in New York, where he was curator of Central Park Zoo, director of Brooklyn's Prospect Park Zoo, and co-chair of the society's renowned Animal Enrichment Program.

Dr. Moore has led international workshops in modern zoo design and accreditation, animal behavior and enrichment, and ecotourism in Spain, Malaysia, and South America, where he has conducted much of his conservation biology research. He is the author of Disney Learning's Disney's Wonderful World of Animals.

By This Professor

Zoology: Understanding the Animal World
Zoology: Understanding the Animal World


What Do Zoologists Do?

01: What Do Zoologists Do?

Get a solid foundation for all the terms and concepts you'll encounter throughout this course. Discover what zoologists do (it's much more than running zoos), take a close look at the phylogenic tree (the tree of life), and examine the definition of terms like species, natural selection, and conservation....

33 min
Animal Reproduction: Genes and Environment

02: Animal Reproduction: Genes and Environment

In this lecture, explore the diversity of reproductive biology and sex in the animal kingdom. Along the way, you'll cover topics including asexual and sexual reproduction, sexual behaviors in different animal groups, and some of the strangest sexual behavior in the animal kingdom: reproduction outside an animal's body....

31 min
Mammal Reproduction: Pandas and Cheetahs

03: Mammal Reproduction: Pandas and Cheetahs

One goal of zoology is to help save the world's endangered species by ensuring their ability to reproduce. Here, Dr. Moore, along with insights from two research biologists, reveals how reproductive scientists are working to help save giant pandas and cheetahs from extinction....

29 min
How Animals Raise Their Young

04: How Animals Raise Their Young

Why is parenting so essential to a species' survival? Why do some animals have different parenting styles? Here, explore different parenting styles in everything from corals to salmon to humans. Then, encounter one of the most unique examples of parental care in mammals: the golden lion tamarin....

29 min
Helpful Corals, Clams, and Crustaceans

05: Helpful Corals, Clams, and Crustaceans

Marine invertebrates are some of the most economically important animals on the planet. Learn more about them in this lecture on invertebrate "good guys" including mollusks (the largest phylum of marine animals), blue crabs, the American lobster, and corals (which surpass tropical rainforests in their levels of biodiversity)....

34 min
Bees, Butterflies, and Saving Biodiversity

06: Bees, Butterflies, and Saving Biodiversity

There are more than 1 million species of insects on our planet-over half of all known extant species. In this lecture, explore adaptations of some of the most important insects on our planet, including ants, bees, and butterflies. Also, focus on key conservation issues like colony collapse and pollinator conservation....

34 min
Deadly Invertebrates: Vectors and Parasites

07: Deadly Invertebrates: Vectors and Parasites

Mosquitos, biting flies, internal parasites-what are the real effects of these invertebrates on humans? Why are they so important to our planet? What makes mosquitos the deadliest animals on Earth? How do zoologists classify the parasites that infect humans? What happens in a zoo's veterinary pathology department?...

32 min
Bony Fish, Skates, Sharks, and Rays

08: Bony Fish, Skates, Sharks, and Rays

Here, Dr. Moore offers an up-close encounter with some of the most interesting animals on our planet: fishes. You'll examine the specific conservation needs of rays, sharks, and bony fishes; learn how fishes achieve buoyancy and how their gills work; explore how fishes adapt to cold, salty waters; and more....

30 min
Amphibians, Metamorphosis, and Ecology

09: Amphibians, Metamorphosis, and Ecology

About 350 million years ago, large amphibians were Earth's most abundant species. Now, their future may be in jeopardy. Join Dr. Moore and a biologist from the Smithsonian's National Zoo for an eye-opening lecture on amphibian biology and diversity and the ways we can help salamanders, frogs, and other species thrive....

31 min
Reptiles: Adaptations for Living on Land

10: Reptiles: Adaptations for Living on Land

Reptiles combine primitive, advanced, generalized, and specialized adaptations for life on earth. First, examine the characteristics reptiles share with birds. Then, examine fascinating reptilian adaptations like parthenogenesis and temperature-dependent sex determination. Finally, learn ways you can help reptiles like snakes, turtles, lizards, and crocodilians survive....

30 min
Beaks, Claws, and Eating like a Bird

11: Beaks, Claws, and Eating like a Bird

From kingfishers to penguins to vultures, dive into the science of ornithology, the study of our planet's birds. Along the way, you'll encounter topics like the amazing adaptations of bills; the evolution of birds of prey; and the relationship between shorebird migration and the egg-laying season for horseshoe crabs....

32 min
Form and Function: Bird Nests and Eggs

12: Form and Function: Bird Nests and Eggs

Variations in bird reproduction allow birds to survive everywhere from rainforest canopies to Antarctica. Explore the intricacies of bird breeding, nesting, and chick-raising adaptations. Topics include mating behavior, nest formation, the ways chicks are built to survive, and ways we can help birds thrive on our planet....

29 min
Taking to the Sky: Bird Migration

13: Taking to the Sky: Bird Migration

One of the most interesting events in the animal kingdom is bird migration by flight. What are the physics of bird flight? Why have some of the world's most interesting birds-like penguins and ostriches-lost the ability to fly? Do wings serve a purpose other than flight? Find out here....

24 min
What Makes a Mammal? Hair, Milk, and Teeth

14: What Makes a Mammal? Hair, Milk, and Teeth

Today, there are more than 5,000 species of mammals assembled in 26 orders and dozens of families. In the first of several lectures on mammalian life, investigate the two traits that make mammals unique from other animals: hair and milk. (And yes, even dolphins possess some form of hair!)...

30 min
Herbivore Mammals: Ruminants and Runners

15: Herbivore Mammals: Ruminants and Runners

Focus now on two types of herbivorous mammals. The first are ruminants: animals like cows and camels who rely on foregut fermentation and four-chambered stomachs to digest plants. The second are runners like horses and oryx, who've developed musculoskeletal adaptations to help them jump and escape predators....

33 min
Carnivore Mammals: Feline, Canine, and Ursine

16: Carnivore Mammals: Feline, Canine, and Ursine

Turn now from herbivores to carnivores like lions, tigers, bears, wolves, cats, and dogs. Among the many insights you'll learn are the different ways carnivores evolved to walk and capture prey, as well as their evolutionary history, which stretches back to tree-dwelling animals that lived 50 and 60 million years ago....

31 min
Primate Mammals: Diverse Forest Dwellers

17: Primate Mammals: Diverse Forest Dwellers

Gain a greater appreciation for the characteristics of primates: their longer lifespans, omnivorous diets, larger brains, and (the only trait they all have in common), inner ears. To get a better sense of primate diversity, you'll focus on a New World monkey (the golden lion tamarin) and a great ape (the gorilla)....

32 min
Size, Structure, and Metabolism

18: Size, Structure, and Metabolism

Explore how an animal's size helps it thrive. Look at allometric scaling (which helps explain diverse characteristics, like why smaller animals like mice have faster breathing and heart rates than the enormous elephant), why invertebrates are much smaller on average than vertebrates, and how bioenergetics-how animals obtain and use fuel-helps us understand animal survival....

32 min
Protection, Support, and Homeostasis

19: Protection, Support, and Homeostasis

From jellyfish to sea lions, every animal on Earth has solved the challenges of movement, protection, and homeostasis in its own way. Dr. Moore covers the diversity of adaptations that animals have developed, including scales, feathers, hair, beaks, horns, and different skeletal structures (axial and appendicular)....

28 min
Animal Energetics and the Giant Panda Problem

20: Animal Energetics and the Giant Panda Problem

Every living thing gets its energy in one of three ways: as a producer, a consumer, or a decomposer. Central to this lecture on animal energetics (including metabolism and digestion) is the giant panda, whose carnivorous physiology and plant-based diet make it one of the most inefficient feeders on our planet....

31 min
Ethology: Studying Animal Behavior

21: Ethology: Studying Animal Behavior

How do zoologists study animal behavior? How does it help them become better caretakers and conservationists? First, examine how the modern approach to studying animal behavior emerged. Then, learn how objective behavioral studies in natural conditions work. Finally, explore Dr. Moore's own observations of the Pampas deer of South America....

31 min
Think! How Intelligent Are Animals?

22: Think! How Intelligent Are Animals?

Zoologists study animal intelligence using a combination of ethology, psychology, and neuroscience. In this lecture, look at the behavior of different animals-the use of tools by animals as diverse as otters and elephants, social learning in primates and dolphins, the famous story of a "counting" horse-to determine whether or not animals think....

33 min
Combating Disease in the Animal Kingdom

23: Combating Disease in the Animal Kingdom

Around 75% of new or emerging infectious human diseases are spread from animals. Examine zoonotic diseases, which are spread between humans and animals and caused by viruses, bacteria, parasites, and fungi. Also, consider how diseases (like canine distemper virus) threaten animals in zoos and in nature....

32 min
Animal Futures: Frontiers in Zoology

24: Animal Futures: Frontiers in Zoology

Every day, zoologists around the world are asked questions about the future of animal species. What's the biggest threat to wildlife? Why are scientists freezing animal tissues? Why do we still know so little about animal life? Have there been successes in conservation? In this "FAQ"-style lecture, get some answers....

35 min