AFI-31306 Life History of Aquatic Organisms


Credits 6.00

Teaching methodContact hours
Practical intensively supervised40
Course coordinator(s)dr. ir. LAJ Nagelkerke
Lecturer(s)dr. ir. LAJ Nagelkerke
dr. RMM Roijackers
ir. PAM van Zwieten
dr. MJM Lankheet
prof. dr. ir. PJH Reijnders
Examiner(s)prof. dr. JAJ Verreth

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 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. In order to facilitate the learning process the course was designed using a matrix structure, with four biological themes and a limited number of aquatic systems (divided in four types) as its axes. The themes are: 1) species diversity and niche differentiation; 2) reproduction and breeding; 3) swimming and migration; and 4) food and food webs. The four types of aquatic systems with their respective water bodies are: A) lakes (L. Victoria, L. Tana, both in Africa); B) rivers (Rhine, Volga in Europe, Amazon in South America); C) oceans (Pacific off South America and Atlantic); and D) coastal zones (tropical South East Asia). To understand the life history of organisms, i.e. to comprehend why they are like they are and why they behave like they do, there are a number of leading principles, i.e. 1) Evolution, which 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, and 2) Trade-offs, which are (evolutionary) compromises in the structure, physiology, or behaviour of organisms.

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;
- explain the evolutionary background and concepts of adaptation and adaptive radiation, and ecomorphological principles;
- explain differences between r and K life history strategies and give conditions which might favour these strategies;
- explain the different patterns and scales of swimming and migration, and discuss migration and swimming in terms of costs and benefits, trade-offs and constraints;
- design, perform and analyse simple laboratory experiments, including the application of basic statistics to correctly set-up and analyse experiments;
- explain food-web related concepts;
- analyse and evaluate scientific viewpoints as published in scientific journals.


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


Written exam with open questions.


- study guide with detailed study objectives;
- course book;
- internet site with course materia

Compulsory for: MAMAquaculture and Marine Resource ManagementMSc1MO