Concepts of Biology - 1st Canadian Edition

May 1, 2015 | Updated: June 14, 2022
Author: Charles Molnar, Jane Gair

In this survey text, directed at those not majoring in biology, we dispel the assumption that a little learning is a dangerous thing. We hope that by skimming the surface of a very deep subject, biology, we may inspire you to drink more deeply and make more informed choices relating to your health, the environment, politics, and the greatest subject that are all of us are entwined in, life itself. This text also includes 80 interactive H5P activities that you can use to evaluate your understanding as you go.

Subject Areas
Biological/Physical Sciences, Biology

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opentextbc.ca

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Concepts of Biology - 1st Canadian Edition by Charles Molnar, Jane Gair is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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Reviews (4) Avg: 4.45 / 5

Janaina Brusco

Institution:Langara CollegeTitle/Position: PhD / ProfessorCreative Commons License

Q: The text covers all areas and ideas of the subject appropriately and provides an effective index and/or glossary

The text goes straight to the point to be made; the more succinct approach can help students to focus on the important points, but further explanation of the topics, with examples, will need to be done in class by the instructor.
The most important points, in each subject, are well covered, but in a really succinct view. The book works for non-major in biology courses, where the intention is to touch base on the topics, and give the students an idea of the subject.
The book does not cover microbiology. For some courses, in a diversity of colleges or universities, the topic is included in non-majors in biology. I suggest the addition of more information on bacteria, comparing gram-positive and gram-negative to open students mind on the diversity of life. The material could be expanded on section 3.2. Or a prokaryotes section could be created.

The book index is not clear because some topics are covered more than once. Ex. Digestive System in section 11.2 and chapter 15. I suggest chapter 11 covers tissues including examples and mentions all body systems that will be explained in individual chapters.

I really appreciate the learning objectives, and videos added.

Comprehensiveness Rating: 3 out of 5

Q: Content is accurate, error-free and unbiased

The content is accurate, described directly in simple way.

Content Accuracy Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: Content is up-to-date, but not in a way that will quickly make the text obsolete within a short period of time. The text is written and/or arranged in such a way that necessary updates will be relatively easy and straightforward to implement

yes, the content is up-to-date, any necessary updates will be relatively easy and straightforward to implement.

Relevance Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: The text is written in lucid, accessible prose, and provides adequate context for any jargon/technical terminology used

Some concepts could be explained further, definitions are given with no further explanation.

Clarity Rating: 4 out of 5

Q: The text is internally consistent in terms of terminology and framework

yes, terms and terminologies are well employed.

Consistency Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: The text is easily and readily divisible into smaller reading sections that can be assigned at different points within the course (i.e., enormous blocks of text without subheadings should be avoided). The text should not be overly self-referential, and should be easily reorganized and realigned with various subunits of a course without presenting much disruption to the reader.

The text can be easily reorganized and realigned with various subunits of a course without presenting too much disruption to the reader.

Modularity Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: The topics in the text are presented in a logical, clear fashion

The unit 4 (Animal Structure and Function) would ideally be reorganized. I recommend that every organ system is covered in a special chapter; and chapter 11 (or section 11.1) just talks about the different tissues to give the students a starting point of diversity of cells, and tissue work performed in physiology. I suggest that every organ system receives one chapter, and sections 11.1-11.6 material is transported to the corresponding chapter.
Chapter 14 material should come first, maybe replacing chapter 11.

Organization Rating: 3 out of 5

Q: The text is free of significant interface issues, including navigation problems, distortion of images/charts, and any other display features that may distract or confuse the reader

yes

Interface Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: The text contains no grammatical errors

no grammatical or spelling errors were identified

Grammar Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: The text is not culturally insensitive or offensive in any way. It should make use of examples that are inclusive of a variety of races, ethnicities, and backgrounds

The text, as far as I can identify, does not include insensitive or offensive language in these areas.

Cultural Relevance Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: Are there any other comments you would like to make about this book, for example, its appropriateness in a Canadian context or specific updates you think need to be made?

I do recommend the book to colleges and University courses that include just the topics covered in the book.

Martha Nelson-Flower

Institution:Langara CollegeTitle/Position: InstructorCreative Commons License

Q: The text covers all areas and ideas of the subject appropriately and provides an effective index and/or glossary

This text broadly matches the information found in a standard introductory biology (non-majors) textbook. Most topics are covered and those that are covered are done well. There are very simple learning objectives before each section, and each section also includes a few study questions for students (and the answers are included as well). Throughout the material, videos are included. For the most part, the videos are fairly dry and mostly show a lecturer speaking, sometimes with an accompanying photo. These videos are still intelligible played at a quicker speed which allows students who are already at a high level of understanding to progress more quickly.
While the information broadly matches other, published textbooks, what is noticeably different is the lack of sophisticated illustrations and figures. While much of the time the text is adequate to convey the meaning, figures can add another layer of understanding and can also make more complicated material seem more palatable.
Another significant and important difference from many introductory textbooks is the omission of any information regarding evolution by natural selection. Given the central importance of this topic to both biology as a whole, and our understanding of many of the topics touched on in the text, the lack here is somewhat troubling. The text acknowledges that this edition has removed the chapters of a previous version that cover evolution.

Comprehensiveness Rating: 4 out of 5

Q: Content is accurate, error-free and unbiased

I did not find any errors in the text. Many of the diagrams and figures were rudimentary and lacked detail; in some cases the detail missing from the figure caused the meaning of the figure to be somewhat obscured (e.g., Fig 2.6 in which hydrogen bonds are depicted but partial charges are not). Overall the explanations are clear and to the point. The content is pared-down and little extraneous detail is provided, with the exception of the sections giving more information about specific biology-related jobs or topics of interest.

Content Accuracy Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: Content is up-to-date, but not in a way that will quickly make the text obsolete within a short period of time. The text is written and/or arranged in such a way that necessary updates will be relatively easy and straightforward to implement

The portion of the text which is most likely to suffer due to the passage of time are the sections dealing with lab techniques and genomics. On the whole, these sections are fairly comprehensive and currently mostly up to date. A new section explaining CRISPR-Cas9 and the potential impacts of this technology should be included as well as the topics already present. This should be relatively easy to implement.

Relevance Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: The text is written in lucid, accessible prose, and provides adequate context for any jargon/technical terminology used

The explanations are clear and concise. Some sections are denser but these usually are covering topics that are intrinsically complicated. The text in these cases make a good learning support; the instructor will need to provide a pathway for the student to follow.

Clarity Rating: 4 out of 5

Q: The text is internally consistent in terms of terminology and framework

Yes, the text is internally consistent. An important point to note is that two sets of information regarding animal structure and function are available. The first set is provided in Chapters 11 to 13 and covers the animal anatomy and physiology at a more surface level. Chapters 14-24 cover the same systems in much greater depth. The instructor can choose which is more appropriate.

Consistency Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: The text is easily and readily divisible into smaller reading sections that can be assigned at different points within the course (i.e., enormous blocks of text without subheadings should be avoided). The text should not be overly self-referential, and should be easily reorganized and realigned with various subunits of a course without presenting much disruption to the reader.

Yes, it would be easy to assign reading of some sections and not others. There are few large blocks of text .

Modularity Rating: 4 out of 5

Q: The topics in the text are presented in a logical, clear fashion

The order of presentation of topics is very similar to that in other introdcutory textbooks and this is logical. Many chapters have an 'Evolution in Action' section which jars somewhat with the absence of any explanation about evolution as a whole.

Organization Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: The text is free of significant interface issues, including navigation problems, distortion of images/charts, and any other display features that may distract or confuse the reader

Some of the figures appear somewhat blurred in the .pdf version of the textbook (downloaded) (e.g., 2.5, 2.9, 2.13). They are still legible but the effect is not professional. Figures in other chapters appear fine.

Interface Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: The text contains no grammatical errors

I have found no grammatical or spelling errors.

Grammar Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: The text is not culturally insensitive or offensive in any way. It should make use of examples that are inclusive of a variety of races, ethnicities, and backgrounds

It is good to see the inclusion of female scientists in the book. I would like to highlight that as this is a Canadian edition, there should be a concerted effort to consult with members of indigenous groups to generate some content. A major focus of the current curriculum in Canadian schools is to engage with indigenous ways of knowing etc. The book should take this on and include some content.

Cultural Relevance Rating: 3 out of 5

Q: Are there any other comments you would like to make about this book, for example, its appropriateness in a Canadian context or specific updates you think need to be made?

I recommend this book as part of an instructor's teaching toolkit. The book explains in a clear way many of the concepts covered in a typical introductory biology class. While the book has some drawbacks (no coverage of evolution, not many figures, figures are in some cases not very useful), these are counteracted by the fact that the book is clear, to the point, and most importantly, free to students. While the instructor is needed to place some of the concepts in context, the book would be a valuable resource to support learning.

Natasha Ramroop Singh

Institution:Thompson Rivers UniversityTitle/Position: Assistant Teaching ProfessorCreative Commons License

Q: The text covers all areas and ideas of the subject appropriately and provides an effective index and/or glossary

The text book, "Concepts of Biology - 1st Canadian Edition" covers a wide range of topics relevant to the reader interested in an introduction to the core principles of biology. A short glossary is provided at the end of each sub-section within chapters, and a very basic Appendix is also included.

Comprehensiveness Rating: 3 out of 5

Q: Content is accurate, error-free and unbiased

The content, based on my analysis, is accurate, error-free and unbiased. External sources of material, including pictures, are cited accurately and credited where necessary. The clarity of some diagrams and schematics does lack a bit, and some improvements can be made with respect to the quality and size of the graphics themselves.

Content Accuracy Rating: 4 out of 5

Q: Content is up-to-date, but not in a way that will quickly make the text obsolete within a short period of time. The text is written and/or arranged in such a way that necessary updates will be relatively easy and straightforward to implement

The content of this text book is up-to-date. That being said, the information included is very basic, and does not necessarily refer to recent advances in science. Because the text deals with very germane concepts of Biology, it will not necessarily become obsolete very easily. Addition of new and more exciting information can be easily added in other iterations of the text, given the wide (but not necessarily deep) treatment of the information.

Relevance Rating: 4 out of 5

Q: The text is written in lucid, accessible prose, and provides adequate context for any jargon/technical terminology used

The text uses relevant scientific jargon pertinent to the subject matter, and does provide an adequate explanation and context of these terms. However, in some parts of the text, a somewhat informal tone is utilized, supposedly in an effort to make the material less intimidating for the introductory reader. Whilst the prose is lucid and accessible, in certain areas, it does come across as more of a relaxed tone.

Clarity Rating: 3 out of 5

Q: The text is internally consistent in terms of terminology and framework

The language of this text book is consistent and terms referred to are used consistently throughout.

Consistency Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: The text is easily and readily divisible into smaller reading sections that can be assigned at different points within the course (i.e., enormous blocks of text without subheadings should be avoided). The text should not be overly self-referential, and should be easily reorganized and realigned with various subunits of a course without presenting much disruption to the reader.

The sub-division of the chapters are very well executed. There are sufficient headings which divide the text into easily digestible reading sections. The chapters are standard for the subject matter at hand.

Modularity Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: The topics in the text are presented in a logical, clear fashion

Yes, the topics in this text book appear in an order that is logical, and fairly standard for Introductory Biology texts.

Organization Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: The text is free of significant interface issues, including navigation problems, distortion of images/charts, and any other display features that may distract or confuse the reader

Having utilized the pdf for review, I find that there is good navigation throughout the document. There is no major distortion of images or charts - the resolution of some diagrams and schematics can be improved, but are still fairly clear to to the reader. External links provided are not distracting and can provide supplemental information to the reader.

Interface Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: The text contains no grammatical errors

Based on my assessment, there are no grammatical or spelling errors found,

Grammar Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: The text is not culturally insensitive or offensive in any way. It should make use of examples that are inclusive of a variety of races, ethnicities, and backgrounds

The text reflects a fair amount of diversity and does not include insensitive or offensive language

Cultural Relevance Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: Are there any other comments you would like to make about this book, for example, its appropriateness in a Canadian context or specific updates you think need to be made?

Yes, I would recommend this text to learners who have little to no background in the study of biology, and who wish to gain a basic understanding of the tenants and principles which govern living organisms.

Michael Deyholos

Institution:University of British ColumbiaTitle/Position: Professor and Head of BiologyCreative Commons License

Q: The text covers all areas and ideas of the subject appropriately and provides an effective index and/or glossary

According to the preface, this is intended as a text for non-majors in introductory biology courses at a typical Canadian university. I assume this means two, 3-credit courses, one term each, e.g. BIOL 117 and BIOL 122 at UBCO.

The printed book, as I received it, consisted of 24 chapters in two volumes. I found the organization of the book to be very unusual, so I need to address the question of comprehensiveness in two parts:

Chapters 1-13 were appropriate as part of an introductory biology text for non-majors, but could not be considered sufficiently comprehensive for the BIOL 117/122 series at my university because it lacked any coverage of evolutionary biology, ecology, or organismal/taxonomic diversity.

Chapters 14-24 would be more appropriate as part of an introductory text in an anatomy & physiology course, rather than an introductory general biology course. As an A&P text, I think it would be nearly sufficient in its comprehensiveness.

(Apparently it was an intentional choice to exclude evolution, diversity, and ecology, because the preface of the original OpenStax version list two additional units, which are not included in the 1st Canadian version.)

There is an effective glossary at the end of most sections. There is no index, and that would be very helpful.

Within Chapters 1-13, only section 4.3 (Citric Acid Cycle) was insufficiently comprehensive, even for an introductory course for non majors.

Within Chapter 24, gastrulation is covered in one sentence. This seems pointless. At least a diagram and a few more sentences are needed, or else why bother even mentioning it?

Comprehensiveness Rating: 4 out of 5

Q: Content is accurate, error-free and unbiased

I found the content to be highly accurate, (although I am not an expert in human A&P, which was the topic of most of the second half of the book).

The only factual errors that I identified are:

(1)
Section 4.2 (Glycolysis) page 161, Figure 4.16. Glucose is incorrectly represented in the diagram as a six carbons arranged as a ring. In fact, glucose does indeed have six carbons, but only five of them are ever in a ring (the sixth carbon is not part of the ring, but an oxygen atom is). (As an aside, I don't think it is necessary to represent Glc in its cyclic form here at all, but if it is to be done, the structure should be accurate even if it is simplified).

(2)
Section 9.3 (Transcription) page 335, Figure 9.18, and accompanying text on page 334. The text incorrectly states that "...genes are composed of protein-coding sequences called exons...". In fact, not all exons encode proteins. All, of part of some exons can encode UTRs. Moreover, some non-coding genes (rRNAs) contain exons. The more accurate definition of exon is that it is retained in the mature RNA. It is difficult to find an authoritative source for the definition, so I offer my academic experience which has focused for 20 years on gene expression and eukaryotic genome annotation, plus the following Wikipedia definition: "An exon is any part of a gene that will form a part of the final mature RNA produced by that gene after introns have been removed by RNA splicing. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exon

(3)
Section 2.3 (Biological Molecules) page 69. The text states that ooligan is ... "low in polyunsaturated fats" but it has "omega-3-fatty acids". As far as I know, all omega-3 fatty acids that would be in our diets are polyunsaturated, so this statement seems contradictory.

(4)
Section 22/4 (Nitrogenous Wastes) page 1017. The text states that "mammals use uric acid crystals as an antioxidant". Even if uric acid is a significant antioxidant in mammalian cells (and I am not sure this has been accepted as true), it would be soluble uric acid, not the crystals that are the antioxidant.

Content Accuracy Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: Content is up-to-date, but not in a way that will quickly make the text obsolete within a short period of time. The text is written and/or arranged in such a way that necessary updates will be relatively easy and straightforward to implement

Yes, text is generally up to date.

There are a couple of anecdotes that are meant to be current news/research that could easily be removed to keep the text from seeming dated:

(1)
Section 9.2 DNA Replication "In 2010, scientists found that telomerase can reverse some age-related condition in mice and this may have potential in regenerative medicine". -- is there any update to this, >12 years later? Does it really work or not (probably not, so delete the anecdote).

(2)
Section 11 (Digestive System) page 405. In a section about obesity, there is a reference to a new initiative by Michelle Obama to promote nutritional awareness. This is obviously dated and could be removed.

Relevance Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: The text is written in lucid, accessible prose, and provides adequate context for any jargon/technical terminology used

Yes, the writing was lucid and accessible, and the technical terminology was explained well.

Clarity Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: The text is internally consistent in terms of terminology and framework

The terminology is internally consistent, but other aspects of the framework are not.

The coverage of topics is quite uneven. The first three chapters explain very, very basic concepts (what is an atom, what is water ...) in great detail. However other concepts that are probably more challenging to students (e.g. citric acid cycle, electron transport chains, photosynthesis, transcription, translation, regulation of gene expression) are covered in only a few pages each.

Another example of the unevenness are the vignettes that are meant to indigenize the text. There are a few of them in the first few chapters, but then they disappear. Likewise, there are a few sections that mention career options associated with the aspect of biology that is being discussed, but these are also lacking from many sections.

One section includes a laboratory activity ("Just Noticeable Difference" testing page 724, Section 17.1). This seems vey much out of place as it is the only such activity in the book.

This is a minor point, but it is important to me as an instructor because it means students will ask me "do we need to know these names and dates": scientists' names and the dates of their discoveries are arbitrarily included in some sections e.g. section 21.2 page 9 "The ABO blood groups were discovered in 1900 and 1901 by Karl Landsteiner at the University of Vienna". Such details is not needed.

Consistency Rating: 3 out of 5

Q: The text is easily and readily divisible into smaller reading sections that can be assigned at different points within the course (i.e., enormous blocks of text without subheadings should be avoided). The text should not be overly self-referential, and should be easily reorganized and realigned with various subunits of a course without presenting much disruption to the reader.

Yes, the text is modular and has many subheadings. It can easily be remixed, reduced, and expanded.

Modularity Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: The topics in the text are presented in a logical, clear fashion

The following aspect of the organization was one of the most puzzling parts of the textbook:

Chapters 14-24 are redundant with several chapters in 11-13. For example, innate immunity is covered in 12.2 and again in 23.1. I am guessing that the intention was to provide an overview of the systems in 11-13 and then go into greater detail in 14-24, but there are several sections (e.g. 12.2 vs 23.1) that are highly redundant. This type of organization for a textbook is very strange to me. I don't think the introductory chapters are needed at all.

Pages 150-151 has some important general concepts (e.g. deginition of enzyes, definition of co-factors) both under the heading of "Pharmaceutical Drug Developer".



Organization Rating: 3 out of 5

Q: The text is free of significant interface issues, including navigation problems, distortion of images/charts, and any other display features that may distract or confuse the reader

I only reviewed the print version of the book.

A minor structural/formatting issue is multiple choice or discussion questions that interrupt the flow of the text in many sections, e.g. the paragraph right below the figure on page 166, or 172, or 244, or the multiple choice question on page 473. These questions should be formatted distinctly to show that they are not part of the narrative of the text; also some of the questions show the answers (e.g. page 172, page 473 ,page 497), while others don't. The ones that show the answers generally show them with some sort of markup tags (e.g. ) which makes me think this is formatting error.


Interface Rating: 4 out of 5

Q: The text contains no grammatical errors

There are very few typos.

page 636. There is a blank line inserted between "maltases" and " , sucrases"

page 912. All of the formulas contain numbering that seems to have been inherited from some other source, e.g. (39.1), (39.2), (39.3) ...

I had also marked a spelling error in "cyctochrome C", but I am unable to find it again in the printed version of the textbook. A search of the electronic version should reveal it.

Grammar Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: The text is not culturally insensitive or offensive in any way. It should make use of examples that are inclusive of a variety of races, ethnicities, and backgrounds

Yes... but:

As mentioned before, the "Through an Indigenous Lens" vignettes are interesting but present in only the first few chapters. I presume that the authors have acquired appropriate permissions to share this knowledge?

Cultural Relevance Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: Are there any other comments you would like to make about this book, for example, its appropriateness in a Canadian context or specific updates you think need to be made?

Yes, with serious reservations.

I think the content is accurate, and the writing is clear if not engaging. However, I would have a difficult time finding an introductory course that matched the topics in this book. Based on the lack of evolution, ecology, and organismal diversity it would not be sufficient as a replacement for e.g. Campbell in our introductory courses (and therefore I think the title "Concepts of Biology" is misleading. Moreover, the level of detail in chapters 12-24 is in many places beyond the level of non-majors, and is probably better suited for an A&P course. Therefore, I would not recommend it as a general biology textbook. Honestly, I would split it into a non-majors cell/molecular book (Chapters 1-13) and an A&P text (Chapter 14-24). Even so, I would want to remix it to remove some of the very basic, long-winded explanations in Chapters 1-3, and to expand some of the primary metabolism and molecular biology topics in later sections.