EZO-22806 Marine Life


Credits 6.00

Teaching methodContact hours
Learning supported by IT11
Practical intensively supervised35
Field Practical32
Course coordinator(s)dr. MJM Lankheet
Lecturer(s)dr. MJM Lankheet
dr. AAM van Lammeren
Examiner(s)dr. MJM Lankheet
dr. AAM van Lammeren

Language of instruction:


Assumed knowledge on:

High School Biology

Continuation courses:

Vertebrate Structure & Function, Functional Zoology, Structure & Physiology of Plants, Development and Reproduction of Plants


How have lower plants and animals adapted in structure, functioning and behavior to survive and reproduce in a wide spectrum of biotic and abiotic marine conditions? Potential niches of algae (green, brown and red) and animals (from sponges, corals, shellfish and worms to crayfish, squids, sea urchins, fish and mammals) and their interactions in a marine community are bound to organismal adaptations in their autecological setting. Such knowledge is important in advising those actors managing components of the marine resource community towards a balanced sustainable use, meanwhile conserving the ecosystem as a whole.
Following lectures, dissection and IT-supported practicals, all questions are finally integrated in a fieldcourse in the intertidal marine area (in Wimereux, France) exploring the adaptations and constraints of plant and animal life and their interactions in a community. Commercial catches of shellfish, crayfish, squids and fish are studied. Field observations in a wide array of habitats and laboratory studies are reported orally and by written reports.

Learning outcomes:

- to find and recognize a wide diversity of lower plants and animals, each with its own characteristics, in the marine niches where they function as living systems;
- to understand how organisms of increasingly complex design (from protista to mammals) perform similar functions: feeding, respiration, excretion, transport, locomotion, coordination and integration, reproduction;
- to understand how organisms with a similar design survive in different environments (adaptive radiation): the biological options and constraints in adapting to marine conditions and utilizing marine resources;
- to understand processes and mechanisms which shaped biological diversity during the individual (ontogenetic) and the evolutionary (phylogenetic) time scale;
- to understand the impact of abiotic factors (exposure, substrate, water content, salinity, temperature, oxygen content, PH) and biotic factors (community with other plants and animals) on structure, function and behavior of organisms;
- to identfy morphotypes and to relate them with ecotypes (e.g. trophic groups, habitat groups);
- to develop skills for research: observation, problem definition, analysis (including dissection), synthesis, discussion and reporting (both orally, by writing and by drawing).


Lectures (24) and dissection practicals (35) on preserved marine invertebrate and vertebrate animals and algae, integrated with theoretical issues and interactive CD-Roms (12 IT) including self-tests. During the field course (32) students experience an intensive introduction in intertidal biology showing a wide diversity of plant and animal life. They characterise (in biotic and physical sense) selected field locations at low-tide. Collected samples are studied by teams of two students: taxonomical position, structure, functioning, life style, biological and economical role. Some simple experiments are designed and performed to study and quantify adaptation. All studies are orally presented to the group, and written down for the report.
Marine commercial catches (fish and invertebrates) are identified at the Fishing port of Boulogne sur Mer, close to our host Institute, Station de Biologie Marine in Wimereux (N-Fr), where ecomorphology of fish is studied. Most groups of invertebrate animals only occur in the marine habitat, and the selected location in the far north of France is the nearest area to explore adaptations of animals and plants to highly varied biotic and abiotic environmental factors, including vertical spring-tide differences up to 8 meter. The host institute offers aquarium facilities for observation, laboratory studies and experiments.


The written exam includes three components, each contributing: Theory 50%, Practicals 30% and the Fieldcourse 20%.


Marine Biology, Castro & Huber, McGraw-Hill (7th edition 2007), Integrated Principles of Zoology, Hickman et al., McGraw Hill (14th edition, 2008) and lecture handouts. Reader 'Marine Life'. A field guide is supplied for loan.

Compulsory for: BASAnimal SciencesBScB: Aquatic Organisms6WD
Compulsory for: WUMLRBSc Minor Marine Living Resources6WD