Behavioural Biology

Course code:
Period 2
Language of tuition:
Fac. der Aard- en Levenswetenschappen
dr. J.M. Koene
dr. J.M. Koene
dr. R.O. Stiedl
dr. J.M. Koene
Teaching method(s):
Lecture, Study Group

Course objective

The course will provide an introduction and overview of behavioural
biology. We will span the range of the animal kingdom and approach
important behaviours from evolutionary, developmental, functional and
mechanistic angles. We will cover a wide range of topics from evolution
of behaviour to consciousness in animals and aspects of human emotional
dysfunction. These topics will deal with aspects of genes (nature) and
environment (nurture) and their interaction in shaping the behaviour of
animals. This includes aspects of the involvement of specific brain
areas in particular behavioural domains.

Final attainment levels:
• Distinguish proximate from ultimate questions.
• Objectively analyse behavioural observations.
• Distinguish the functional domains that are elemental to understand
behavioural biology.
• Explain how genes (nature) and environment (nurture), and their
interaction, shape the behaviour of animals.
• Interpret and explain behavioural research at different biological
levels (evolutionary, developmental, functional and mechanistic).
• Interpret behavioural data related to both fundamental and applied
research questions.

Course content

In Behavioural Biology we study the "Why?" and "How?" of different
behaviours of animals in their environment. We will cover the main
subdisciplines as well as important functional domains that are
elemental to understand behavioural biology. Topics that we will address
- Principles of Animals Behaviour: Tinbergen’s Four Questions
- Evolution of Behaviour
- Proximate Factors I: Neurobiology and Hormones
- Proximate Factors II: Development and Molecular Genetics
- Learning and Memory
- Cultural Transmission
- Sexual Selection
- Mating Systems
- Kinship
- Cooperation, Social Behaviour and Aggression
- Foraging and Antipredator Behaviour
- Habitat Selection, Territoriality, and Migration
- Communication
- Learning and Memory
- Episodic Memory, Consciousness and Personalities
- Emotion and Stress
- Aging and Disease

Form of tuition

Lectures (30 h) by the course coordinators and guest lecturers (t.b.d.)
Computer/web exercises (6 h) to analyse movie clips of animal behaviour
Essay writing
Self studies with preparation (of questions) for lectures

Type of assessment

Written examination with open-ended questions (80%)
Essay (10%)
WebExercises (10%)

Course reading

Textbook: L.A. Dugatkin, Principles of Animal Behaviour, 3rd Ed. 2013
(ISBN-10: 0393920453 | ISBN-13: 978-0393920451)
Additional reading material: A selection of primary literature papers
that give more in-depth insight into the mechanisms underlying the
specific topics covered in the book. The latter material will be
provided digitally via Canvas,

Entry requirements


Recommended background knowledge

Neurobiologie (AB_1039, 1st year Biology)
Regulatie en Afweer bij Dieren (AB_470202, or equivalent Animal
Physiology course at BSc level).

Target audience

3rd year Bachelor students in Biology and Minor Evolutionary Biology and

Registration procedure


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