BIOSCI 329 : Biology of Fish


2020 Semester Two (1205) (15 POINTS)

Course Prescription

A comprehensive coverage of the biology of fish including their evolution, diversity and organism biology. Coverage includes habitats of particular interest to New Zealand such as Antarctica, the deep sea, coral and temperate reefs, and New Zealand's lakes and rivers.

Course Overview

See course prescription. Course consists of 32 lectures plus a three day residential field course at the Leigh Marine Laboratory, in the second half of the mid-semester break. Space at the lab is limited to 30, so we need to split the class into two field course streams. Students will be placed in one or other of these field course streams when they enrol. The field course will cover meristics, anatomy, feeding apparatus, gut analysis, and taxonomy of myctophid fishes.

Course Requirements

Prerequisite: 15 points from BIOSCI 207, 208

Capabilities Developed in this Course

Capability 1: Disciplinary Knowledge and Practice
Capability 2: Critical Thinking
Capability 3: Solution Seeking
Graduate Profile: Bachelor of Science

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, students will be able to:
  1. Understand the basic taxonomic and phylogenetic approaches used to identify, describe and compare fishes. (Capability 1, 2 and 3)
  2. Identify the main defining characteristics (i.e. diagnostic features) and evolutionary relationships of the major fish groups. (Capability 1, 2 and 3)
  3. Explain how modern fish diversity reflects the major anatomical and ecological transitions that have occurred in the history of fish, including the agnathan fishes, the origins of the gnathostomes, the chondrichthyan/osteichthyan split, the sarcopterygian/actinopterygian split, the diversification of the sarcopterygians (including the origins of tetrapods), and the diversification of the actinopterygians (including the teleosts). (Capability 1, 2 and 3)
  4. Understand the main species concepts, and explain the various ways that speciation can take place in both freshwater and marine fishes, with examples (e.g. African cichlids, triplefins, drummers and parrotfishes). (Capability 1, 2 and 3)
  5. Understand the general characteristics of marine herbivorous fish, list some of the main taxonomic groups, and be able to explain some examples of functional anatomy including the oral jaws, pharyngeal apparatus and gut structure. (Capability 1, 2 and 3)
  6. Understand the main groupings of marine algae, their major cell wall and storage carbohydrates, and how these are digested in some marine herbivorous fishes. (Capability 1, 2 and 3)
  7. Explain the main latitudinal and longitudinal trends in reef fish diversity, and how we can define reef fishes in terms of habitat, ecology and taxonomy. (Capability 1, 2 and 3)
  8. Understand the physiological processes involved in fish growth, respiration, buoyancy and osmoregulation. (Capability 1, 2 and 3)
  9. Explain the unique attributes of fish muscle growth, locomotion and reproduction. (Capability 1, 2 and 3)
  10. Understand the physiological basis behind the different sensory systems used by fish. (Capability 1, 2 and 3)


Assessment Type Percentage Classification
In course essay 10% Individual Coursework
Myctophid ID 10% Individual Coursework
Herbivorous fish assignment 25% Individual Coursework
myctophid description 5% Individual Coursework
final exam 50% Individual Examination
Assessment Type Learning Outcome Addressed
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
In course essay
Myctophid ID
Herbivorous fish assignment
myctophid description
final exam

Learning Resources

329 course guide. Prescribed Text is: Helfman GS, BB Collette, DE Facey and BW Bowen (2009) The diversity of fishes. 2nd ed. Wiley-Blackwell, John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. 

Special Requirements

The practical component will be conducted as a 3 day residential field course at the Leigh Marine Laboratory, in the second half of the mid-semester break. Space at the lab is limited to 30, so we need to split the class into two field course streams. Students will be placed in one or other of these field course streams when they enrol. The field course will cover meristics, anatomy, feeding apparatus, gut analysis, and taxonomy of myctophid fishes.

Workload Expectations

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

For this course, you can expect 32 hours of lectures, 20 hours of field course, 28 hours of reading and thinking about the content and 40 hours of work on assignments and/or test preparation.

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 12/02/2020 08:12 p.m.