REG-30306 Animal Ecology


Credits 6.00

Teaching methodContact hours
Field practical49
Course coordinator(s)prof. dr. ir. F van Langevelde
Lecturer(s)dr. ir. IMA Heitkönig
prof. dr. ir. F van Langevelde
dr. WF van Hooft
Examiner(s)prof. dr. ir. F van Langevelde

Language of instruction:


Assumed knowledge on:

NCP-10503 Ecology I; CP-20503 Ecology II; REG-20306 Resource Ecology; REG-31806 Ecological Methods I.


The course will provide a deeper understanding of animal-animal, animal-food and animal-habitat interactions at various levels. At the lowest integration level we will deal with the characteristics of food and foragers, especially herbivores with their feeding adaptations. Attention will be paid to the role of body weight as an important determinant in many foraging traits. Optimal foraging theory lies at the heart of foraging decisions of animals and therefore ample attention will be given to the factors shaping functional response curves, diet selection, patch choice and habitat selection. Examples of foraging behaviour will be discussed in the light of theory. Movement ecology deals with searching for resources. Interspecific interactions are thought to play a major role in shaping animal communities and an important focus therefore will be on competitive, facilitative and predatory interactions between different animals. At the highest level of integration, the structure and functioning of animal communities will be discussed. Which factors determine species richness, resource partitioning; what is the role of body size, which assembly rules apply? We will further explain what mechanisms underlie the large impact of animals on their environment. Finally we discuss the evolution of animal traits that can help to understand these animal-animal, animal-food and animal-habitat interactions at various levels. These questions will be addressed during the lectures, practical modelling and field practical.

Learning outcomes:

- student understands the major physiological and behavioural adaptations of animals to search for food and habitat;
- student can apply current theories about animal-animal, animal-food and animal-habitat interactions at various levels;
- student can set up an experiment to test hypotheses about animal foraging behaviour and analyse the collected data;
- student can analyse and evaluate models of the effect of foraging animals on ecosystem dynamics.


- attendance of lectures;
- reading of literature and reporting back on knowledge acquired;
- carrying out field experiment on foraging behaviour and patch selection by animals during practical work;
- analysing data collected during the field experiments;
- Carrying out a modelling study on the effect of foraging animals on ecosystem dynamics;
- Presentation of results in a scientific paper (practical modelling) and an oral presentation (field practical).


- written test with 30 multiple questions, 10 questions with restricted options and 4 open questions (33%);
- report on practical modelling (33%);
- presentation on field practical (33%).
Each component needs a minimum mark of 5.5 to pass.



Restricted Optional for: MBIBiologyMScD: Conservation and Systems Ecology6WD
MFNForest and Nature ConservationMScC: Ecology6WD
MFNForest and Nature ConservationMScB: Management6WD
Compulsory for: WUWLBBSc Minor Wildlife Biodiversity6WD