Behavioural Biology

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Course Description

  • Course Name

    Behavioural Biology

  • Host University

    Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

  • Location

    Amsterdam, The Netherlands

  • Area of Study

    Biology, Human Biology

  • Language Level

    Taught In English

  • Course Level Recommendations


    ISA offers course level recommendations in an effort to facilitate the determination of course levels by credential evaluators.We advice each institution to have their own credentials evaluator make the final decision regrading course levels.

    Hours & Credits

  • ECTS Credits

  • Recommended U.S. Semester Credits
  • Recommended U.S. Quarter Units
  • Overview

    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.

    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 are:

    • 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

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

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


    Neurobiology, Plant & Animal Physiology 

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

Course Disclaimer

Courses and course hours of instruction are subject to change.

Some courses may require additional fees.


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