Marine Vertebrates

The details
Life Sciences (School of)
Colchester Campus
Undergraduate: Level 5
Thursday 03 October 2024
Friday 13 December 2024
08 March 2024


Requisites for this module



Key module for

BSC C161 Marine Biology (Including Foundation Year),
BSC C164 Marine Biology,
BSC CC60 Marine Biology (Including Year Abroad),
BSC CC64 Marine Biology (Including Placement Year),
MSCIB097 Tropical Marine Biology,
MSCIBA97 Tropical Marine Biology (Including Placement Year),
MSCIBB97 Tropical Marine Biology (Including Year Abroad)

Module description

This module will introduce you to the main marine vertebrates. Specifically the module will describe major taxonomic divisions and the evolutionary relationships between different taxa.

Much attention will be given to the fundamental biology, ecology and conservation of the main groups focusing heavily on marine cetacea (whales and dolphins). As well as the cetacea, other key groups examined during this module include marine Teleosts, Elasmobranchs, Sirenia, Carnivora , Marine turtles and Sea snakes. The module will include a field practical examining fish utilisation of salt marsh habitats. The module will conclude by examining the key threats to sleeted aquatic vertebrates and key conservation mechanisms and initiatives.

Module aims

The aims of this module are:

  • To provide an understanding of the importance of marine vertebrates to aquatic systems.

  • To provide knowledge of the taxonomy, physiology, ecology and conservation of the main aquatic vertebrates groups.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of this module, students will be expected to be able to:

  1. Describe the taxonomic diversity, biology and ecology of aquatic vertebrates.

  2. Demonstrate an understanding of factors adversely affecting aquatic vertebrate diversity and population sizes.

  3. Discuss the environmental and economic value of aquatic vertebrates and to know conservation strategies.

  4. Explain functional and physiological aspects of fishes including buoyancy, osmoregulation and excretion, respiration and circulation, defence, immunity and fish vaccination.

  5. Understand the importance of salt marsh as a resource for fish communities.

  6. Demonstrate competence in data presentation, analysis and interpretation, numeracy, information retrieval and written communication.

  7. Show competence in gathering scientific information, particularly from the web, in reading and analysis of simple scientific reviews and data within them, and in communication skill.

Module information

Marine mammals are very well adapted to an aquatic existence and are important components of aquatic food webs; they are often top predators and/or keystone species. They have huge conservation, environmental and economic value, that cannot be underestimated when considering the importance of this group of animals to aquatic systems in general.

Learning and teaching methods

This module will be delivered via:

  • One 1-hour lecture per week.
  • Two 2-hour practicals or equivalent


This module does not appear to have a published bibliography for this year.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Coursework weighting
Coursework   Essay      
Exam  Main exam: In-Person, Open Book (Restricted), 120 minutes during January 
Exam  Reassessment Main exam: In-Person, Open Book (Restricted), 120 minutes during September (Reassessment Period) 

Exam format definitions

  • Remote, open book: Your exam will take place remotely via an online learning platform. You may refer to any physical or electronic materials during the exam.
  • In-person, open book: Your exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer to any physical materials such as paper study notes or a textbook during the exam. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, open book (restricted): The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer only to specific physical materials such as a named textbook during the exam. Permitted materials will be specified by your department. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, closed book: The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may not refer to any physical materials or electronic devices during the exam. There may be times when a paper dictionary, for example, may be permitted in an otherwise closed book exam. Any exceptions will be specified by your department.

Your department will provide further guidance before your exams.

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
50% 50%


Coursework Exam
50% 50%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Michelle Taylor, email:
Dr Michelle Taylor, Dr Anna Sturrock, Dr Leanne Hepburn, Dr Chris Mackin
School Undergraduate Office, email: bsugoffice (Non essex users should add to create the full email address)



External examiner

Prof Edgar Turner
University of Cambridge
Professor of Insect Ecology
Available via Moodle
Of 28 hours, 18 (64.3%) hours available to students:
10 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s), module, or event type.


Further information
Life Sciences (School of)

* Please note: due to differing publication schedules, items marked with an asterisk (*) base their information upon the previous academic year.

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