AFI-31306 Life History of Aquatic Organisms


Credits 6.00

Teaching methodContact hours
Course coordinator(s)SM Neitzel
Lecturer(s)dr. LE Becking
prof. dr. AJ Murk
dr. ir. LAJ Nagelkerke
ir. PAM van Zwieten
dr. MJM Lankheet
ing. EH Eding
prof. dr. ir. PJH Reijnders
Examiner(s)prof. dr. AJ Murk
dr. ir. LAJ Nagelkerke
dr. MJM Lankheet
ir. PAM van Zwieten

Language of instruction:


Assumed knowledge on:

Knowledge on the principles of organismal biology and ecology.

Continuation courses:

AFI-30806 Fisheries Ecology; AFI-31806 Aquaculture Production Systems; AFI-32306 Nutrition, Welfare and Reproduction in Aquaculture; AFI-32806 Marine Resources Management.


The course Life History of Aquatic Organisms deals with the biology and ecology of aquatic organisms, with an emphasis on life history theory. The focus in the course lies with animal species, especially those which are important for fisheries, aquaculture and nature conservation. A wide array of subjects is treated, from the organism (reproduction, feeding, homeostasis, migration, habitat use), the population (population ecology) and the community level (fish communities), as well as a large variety of aquatic systems and diverse organism groups. To understand the life history of organisms, i.e. to comprehend why they are like they are and why they behave like they do, evolution is the leading principle. Evolutionary mechanisms can explain how organisms have adapted to certain environmental circumstances, but also that not all structures and behaviours are necessarily adaptive, or the best possible solution. From the perspective of the life history of organisms there are three concepts that are leading in this course: 1) adaptation, which is a phenotypic change in a species, caused by environmental pressures, leading towards better fitness; 2) constraint, which means that adaptations and patterns of traits in a species are restricted by the phylogeny (evolutionary history) of the species; and 3) trade-off, which is an (evolutionary) compromise in the structure, physiology, or behaviour of a species. Trade-offs occur when the development of several traits is coupled, prohibiting the independent optimization of all these traits.

Learning outcomes:

After successful completion of this course students are expected to be able to:
- analyse and integrate the different aspects of the life histories of aquatic organisms in relation to physical, chemical and biological characteristics of their aquatic biota;
- identify and measure the main freshwater zooplankton groups and extract relevant data for life-history comparisons;
- analyse and evaluate food-web related scientific viewpoints;
- explain and apply the concepts of adaptation, constraint and trade-off;
- analyse the evolutionary background and concepts of adaptation, niche differentiation and adaptive radiation using eco-morphological principles;
- perform morphological measurements and dissection on fishes and mollusks supporting eco-morphological analysis;
- analyse the different patterns and scales of swimming and migration, using a cost - benefit model;
- design, perform and analyse simple laboratory experiments, including the application of basic statistics;
- explain the main reproductive strategies in aquatic organisms, including the mechanisms of sex change and how these can be used in aquaculture.


- follow lectures;
- perform exercises in tutorials and practicals;
- study course book.


Written test on ca. 10 subjects with open and closed questions.


Course guide
Course book
Internet site with course material.

Compulsory for: MAMAquaculture and Marine Resource ManagementMSc1MO
Restricted Optional for: MBIBiologyMScA: Animal Adaptation and Behavioural Biology1MO
MASAnimal SciencesMScF: Animal Ecology1MO