EZO-30806 Functional Zoology


Credits 6.00

Teaching methodContact hours
Independent study0
Course coordinator(s)dr. ir. FT Muijres
Lecturer(s)RPM Pieters
dr. ir. FT Muijres
dr. SWS Gussekloo
prof. dr. ir. JL van Leeuwen
dr. MJM Lankheet
H Schipper
GJ Amador
Examiner(s)dr. ir. FT Muijres

Language of instruction:


Assumed knowledge on:

EZO-10306 Human and Animal Biology I and HAP-20306 Human and Animal Biology, part 2; EZO-31306 Vertebrate Structure and Function; MAT-14803 Mathematics 1 + MAT-14903 Mathematics 2. To enable students to check whether they have a sufficient background knowledge in mathematics, a test will be provided.


This course addresses basic skills required for research in functional zoology and related fields. The student is introduced to a range of important experimental techniques, such as:
- morphometry;
- biomechanics;
- high-speed video analysis of kinematics of moving animals;
- signal analysis;
- analysis of stresses and strains of muscle and connective tissue;
- measurement of work output by muscle fibres.
In addition, a basic training is given in analytical and numerical modelling using the powerful engineering software package Matlab as a programming environment.
Previous knowledge of Matlab is not required. The theoretical background is offered in the form of lectures, selected book chapters and articles. The laboratory work consists of several mini-research projects in which questions have to be formulated, an appropriate experimental protocol has to be designed, an experiment has to be conducted, and data have to be analysed and discussed. The topics that will be addressed include:
- muscle structure and function;
- terrestrial and aerial locomotion;
- shape, scaling and allometry;
- aerodynamics of animal flight;
- biomaterials and structures;
- ecomorphology.
Each student delivers written or oral presentations of the mini-research projects. For students with a prior training in modelling, the animal flight practical will involve the development of a computational model. The other students analyze videos of flying animals. Models and experiment will be compared to illustrate the power of a deductive methodology.

Learning outcomes:

After successful completion of this course students are expected to be able to:
- understand the basic theoretical concepts and techniques used in current functional zoology;
- select and apply a range of experimental techniques with appropriate practical skills;
- execute a basic error analysis of measurements;
- make a mechanistic analysis of animal movement systems;
- program in Matlab, a state of the art software environment for analysing numerical problems;
- create analytical and numerical models of time-dependent movement systems in zoology and to judge their validity with experimental outcomes;
- design and execute mini research projects, including written and oral presentations;
- organize their own learning process based on reflection upon the acquisition of new knowledge in the field of functional zoology.


- follow lectures and study the explained material;
- read chapters of the text books and scientific papers;
- practical training in a range of experimental techniques;
- practical training in programming and modelling in MatLab;
- carrying out of small research projects;
- oral and written presentations.


- written test with open questions (50%), test of learning outcomes 1, 3, 4, 6;
- 3 group reports (30%), test of learning outcomes 2, 4-8;
- 2 oral presentations (20%), test of learning outcomes 4-8.


Study guide.
R.McN. Alexander (2003). Principles of Animal Locomotion, Princeton University Press.

Restricted Optional for: MBIBiologyMScB: Organismal Adaptation and Development5MO
MASAnimal SciencesMScD: Adaptation, Health and Welfare5MO
MASAnimal SciencesMScE: Molecule, Cell and Organ Functioning5MO