Marine Vertebrates

The details
Life Sciences (School of)
Colchester Campus
Undergraduate: Level 5
Thursday 03 October 2019
Saturday 14 December 2019
02 September 2019


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),
MMB C160 Marine Biology

Module description

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. 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 aim of the module is to provide an understanding of the importance of marine vertebrates to aquatic systems. The module also aims to provide knowledge of the taxonomy, physiology, ecology and conservation of the main aquatic vertebrates groups.

Module learning outcomes

To pass this module, you will need 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

No additional information available.

Learning and teaching methods

20 x 1 hour lectures, plus 1 revision class before summer exam; 2 x 3 hour practicals or equivalent


  • Reynolds, John Elliott; Rommel, Sentiel A. (c1999) Biology of marine mammals, Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press.

The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course. The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students. Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Weighting
Coursework   Review Essay     40% 
Coursework   Practical Worksheet    60% 
Exam  150 minutes during Summer (Main Period) (Main) 

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
50% 50%


Coursework Exam
50% 50%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Michelle Taylor, email:
Mr Matthew Bond
School Undergraduate Office, email: bsugoffice (Non essex users should add to create the full email address)



External examiner

Dr Nicholas Kamenos
University of Glasgow
Available via Moodle
Of 78 hours, 17 (21.8%) hours available to students:
61 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information
Life Sciences (School of)

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