BIOSCI 207 : Adaptive Form and Function


2020 Semester Two (1205) (15 POINTS)

Course Prescription

Biological adaptations of animals, including behaviour, morphology, physiology and life history. Topics covered include how animals navigate, physiological adaptations, behavioural ecology, animal reproduction and anti-predator defences.

Course Overview

The aim of the course is to examine animal structure, function, physiology and behaviour using an integrative approach that will span from whole animal behaviour to anatomy and physiological mechanisms. The whole course is framed in the context of adaptive significance.  Students will practice and develop skills in putting forward adaptive hypotheses for animal features they observe (from museum specimens to wild animal populations) and proposing their own methods for testing these hypotheses.  Students will take part in a half-day field trip to Muriwai gannet colony. This course is a key part of the Zoology pathway leading directly on to stage 3 courses in  animal behaviour, physiology and diversity, and will provide key skills in the development and testing of hypotheses, which are important for any career relating to animal biology.

Course Requirements

Prerequisite: BIOSCI 108, and BIOSCI 101 or 109

Capabilities Developed in this Course

Capability 1: Disciplinary Knowledge and Practice
Capability 2: Critical Thinking
Capability 3: Solution Seeking
Capability 4: Communication and Engagement
Capability 5: Independence and Integrity
Capability 6: Social and Environmental Responsibilities
Graduate Profile: Bachelor of Science

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, students will be able to:
  1. Research and synthesise knowledge of animal diversity and comparative morphology (Capability 1 and 2)
  2. Put forward adaptive hypotheses to explain the features of animals they observe in museum collections, in the wild and from photos and videos (Capability 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5)
  3. Propose appropriate methods for testing their own adaptive hypotheses (Capability 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5)
  4. Describe and explain a variety of antipredator and predatory adaptations in animals (Capability 1, 2 and 3)
  5. Describe and explain the physiological adaptations that animals use to cope with environmental variation (Capability 1, 2 and 3)
  6. Describe and explain how hormones influence behaviour (Capability 1, 2 and 3)
  7. Describe and discuss the adaptive significance of behaviour (Capability 1, 2 and 3)
  8. Use field observations of a wild animal population to test hypotheses (Capability 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6)


Assessment Type Percentage Classification
Lab and Field Trip Reports (Practical) 20% Individual Coursework
Tests (Theory) 30% Individual Test
Final Exam (Theory) 40% Individual Examination
Assignments (Theory) 10% Individual Coursework
Assessment Type Learning Outcome Addressed
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Lab and Field Trip Reports (Practical)
Tests (Theory)
Final Exam (Theory)
Assignments (Theory)
Students must pass both theory and practical components of the course.  Attendance at the field trip and laboratories is compulsory. Students who are approved to take this course remotely will have alternative arrangements made. 

Key Topics

The four main topics covered in lectures are (1) adaptations: students will learn how to put forward adaptive hypothesis and develop methods to test them. This will be taught via the topic of predatory and antipredator adaptations (2) comparative physiology:  the physiological adaptations that animals use to cope with environmental variation, (3) hormones and behaviour: the complex interaction between animal hormones and their behaviour, (4) behavioural ecology: the adaptive significance of behaviour.

Learning Resources

All resources are provided via canvas

Special Requirements

Must complete and pass both practical and theory components of the course. Attendance at the field trip and laboratories is compulsory.
There is one half-day field trip to the Muriwai Gannet colony on a Saturday in second half of semester. Students who are approved to take this course remotely will have alternative arrangements made.

Workload Expectations

This course is a standard 15 point course and students are expected to spend at least 10 hours per week involved in each 15 point course that they are enrolled in.

For this course, you can expect 3 hours of lectures,  4 hours of reading and thinking about the content and 4 hours of work on assignments and/or test preparation. In addition, there are 3 x 3 hour laboratory classes and 1 half-day field trip spread throughout the semester.

Digital Resources

Course materials are made available in a learning and collaboration tool called Canvas which also includes reading lists and lecture recordings (where available).

Please remember that the recording of any class on a personal device requires the permission of the instructor.


The content and delivery of content in this course are protected by copyright. Material belonging to others may have been used in this course and copied by and solely for the educational purposes of the University under license.

You may copy the course content for the purposes of private study or research, but you may not upload onto any third party site, make a further copy or sell, alter or further reproduce or distribute any part of the course content to another person.

Academic Integrity

The University of Auckland will not tolerate cheating, or assisting others to cheat, and views cheating in coursework as a serious academic offence. The work that a student submits for grading must be the student's own work, reflecting their learning. Where work from other sources is used, it must be properly acknowledged and referenced. This requirement also applies to sources on the internet. A student's assessed work may be reviewed against online source material using computerised detection mechanisms.

Inclusive Learning

All students are asked to discuss any impairment related requirements privately, face to face and/or in written form with the course coordinator, lecturer or tutor.

Student Disability Services also provides support for students with a wide range of impairments, both visible and invisible, to succeed and excel at the University. For more information and contact details, please visit the Student Disability Services’ website at

Special Circumstances

If your ability to complete assessed coursework is affected by illness or other personal circumstances outside of your control, contact a member of teaching staff as soon as possible before the assessment is due.

If your personal circumstances significantly affect your performance, or preparation, for an exam or eligible written test, refer to the University’s aegrotat or compassionate consideration page:

This should be done as soon as possible and no later than seven days after the affected test or exam date.

Student Feedback

During the course Class Representatives in each class can take feedback to the staff responsible for the course and staff-student consultative committees.

At the end of the course students will be invited to give feedback on the course and teaching through a tool called SET or Qualtrics. The lecturers and course co-ordinators will consider all feedback.

Your feedback helps to improve the course and its delivery for all students.

Student Charter and Responsibilities

The Student Charter assumes and acknowledges that students are active participants in the learning process and that they have responsibilities to the institution and the international community of scholars. The University expects that students will act at all times in a way that demonstrates respect for the rights of other students and staff so that the learning environment is both safe and productive. For further information visit Student Charter (


Elements of this outline may be subject to change. The latest information about the course will be available for enrolled students in Canvas.

In this course you may be asked to submit your coursework assessments digitally. The University reserves the right to conduct scheduled tests and examinations for this course online or through the use of computers or other electronic devices. Where tests or examinations are conducted online remote invigilation arrangements may be used. The final decision on the completion mode for a test or examination, and remote invigilation arrangements where applicable, will be advised to students at least 10 days prior to the scheduled date of the assessment, or in the case of an examination when the examination timetable is published.

Published on 07/07/2020 11:20 a.m.