BIOSCI 337 : Animal Behaviour


2021 Semester Two (1215) (15 POINTS)

Course Prescription

Proximate and ultimate causes of behaviour are investigated experimentally in the field and the laboratory. Responses by animals to variations in the physical environment and to other organisms are studied. The development and organisation of behaviour and the theoretical background to topics of current interest are covered, using both New Zealand and overseas examples. A knowledge of BIOSCI 206 is recommended.

Course Overview

This course provides an introduction to major facets of the study of animal behaviour, with special attention to its evolution and ecological significance, as well as the proximate mechanisms that mediate behaviour. In addition to identifying major patterns and processes of animal behaviour, students learn to use observational and experimental techniques to study behaviour. There is a strong emphasis on the process of animal behaviour research - developing hypotheses, designing research studies, and interpreting data with a critical eye. Content includes classic animal behaviours topics such as sexual selection, predator/prey relationships, mimicry and deception, competition, parental care, and sex differences, as well as many others.

BIOSCI 337 is a required part of the Zoology pathway. This course is designed for students interested in animals and wishing to develop an understanding how and why animal behave as they do, and why that knowledge is useful, both as fundamental knowledge, and as applied to agriculture, conservation, management and tourism.  

Careers that utilise concepts and methods learned in Animal Behaviour include research scientists, zoo keepers, council resource managers, veterinarians, DOC rangers, ecotourism operators, animal trainers, animal psychologist, animal farmer, animal breeder, biosecurity officers, conservation officer, animal welfare officer, research assistant, technician, ecological consultants, or science writer. Students that are interested in further studies often continue with postgraduate research (e.g. PG Diploma in Science, Honours, MSc Science, MSc Biosecurity & Conservation, PhD Biology).

BIOSCI 206 is recommended.

Course Requirements

Prerequisite: BIOSCI 209 or 220, and 207 or 208

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. Describe and recognise general concepts of animal behaviour and identify proximate and ultimate perspectives (Capability 1, 2 and 4)
  2. Develop and articulate hypotheses for proximate and ultimate explanations for animal behaviour (Capability 1, 2, 3 and 4)
  3. Design , execute, and present research projects on animal behaviour using observational and experimental techniques while considering context and ethics (Capability 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6)
  4. Evaluate and analyse animal behaviour data to determine whether predictions are supported (Capability 1, 2, 3 and 4)
  5. Demonstrate an ability to communicate animal behaviour concepts and research to interested audience (Capability 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6)


Assessment Type Percentage Classification
Final Exam 30% Individual Examination
Test 20% Individual Test
Project 30% Group & Individual Coursework
Laboratories 15% Group Coursework
Coursework 5% Individual Coursework
Assessment Type Learning Outcome Addressed
1 2 3 4 5
Final Exam
Students must pass both the practical (course work/research project/lab work) and theory (tests and exam) portions to receive an overall pass. 


For more information and to find contact details for BIOSI 337 Tuākana coordinator, please see -

Key Topics

Animal Behaviour history and research techniques 
Competition and contests
Parental care
Social selection
Sexual selection and conflict
Social systems
Signalling, deception and mimicry
Behavioral & genetics
Neuroethology & mechanisms

Special Requirements

Must complete a research project and associated labs. 
Students who are approved to take this course remotely will have alternative arrangements made. 
Independent data collection and data analysis is required. Options include residential, off-campus field work or local field trip.

All student complete student designed group research projects, thus activities vary and can be adjusted to suit. 
For off-campus options - Fieldwork involves day or night research (student choice). Example activities include identifying plants and insects, catching birds, hiking and carrying small bags of equipment along unpaved tracks, observing animals in the field, observing birds through scopes or binoculars. We anticipate approx. 6-8 hours a day of active outdoor research. Transportation is provided via chartered bus. Accommodation is in shared dormitories (women-only rooms are available) with men’s and women’s shared bathrooms and some single unisex toilets and showers (accessible for wheelchairs too). We can cater for a wide range of diets and a prayer room will be available. Female and male staff will be present, and will have first-aid training. Some gear can be borrowed from the department (e.g. some raincoats and gumboots) and accompanying persons and service/guide dogs may be able to attend – please contact course coordinator for more information about these or to discuss other access requirements.

For local options - Local projects can be either laboratory based or field based. Fieldwork involves daytime research, activities depend on student project design but may include - identifying plants and insects, catching birds, observing animals, hiking and carrying small bags of equipment along finished surface. We anticipate approx. 6-8 hours a day of active outdoor research. Alternatively, students can complete their projects on captive invertebrates in the laboratory. Most years we also offer an option to complete research at the Auckland Zoo. Students are responsible for transportation to/from campus/zoo and provide their own food. Staff will be present, and will have first-aid training. Some gear can be borrowed from the department (e.g. some raincoats and gumboots) and accompanying persons and service/guide dogs may be able to attend – please contact course coordinator for more information about these or to discuss other access requirements.

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 3 hours of lectures, 3 hours of reading and thinking about the content and 4 hours of work on assignments and/or test preparation.

Delivery Mode

Campus Experience

Attendance is required at scheduled activities including labs/field trips to complete the practical components of the course.
Lectures will be available as recordings. Other learning activities including seminars/tutorials will be available as recordings.
The course will not include live online events.
Attendance on campus is required for the exam.
The activities for the course are scheduled as a standard weekly timetable.

A remote version of the course can be made available to students located overseas because of border restrictions, or those with an exemption to study remotely.

Learning Resources

Required reading is from journal articles/primary literature and is provided by lecturers.
An Introduction to Behavioural Ecology (Davies, Krebs, West) - optional text

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.

337 changes every year in response to student feedback, so it is never the same twice. 

This course is generally very highly valued by students (80-100% think it's a good course). The teaching faculty are among the highest rated in Biology. 

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.

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.


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.

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

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.

Learning Continuity

In the event of an unexpected disruption we undertake to maintain the continuity and standard of teaching and learning in all your courses throughout the year. If there are unexpected disruptions the University has contingency plans to ensure that access to your course continues and your assessment is fair, and not compromised. Some adjustments may need to be made in emergencies. You will be kept fully informed by your course co-ordinator, and if disruption occurs you should refer to the University Website for information about how to proceed.

Delivery mode according to Alert level -
Level 1: Delivered normally as specified in delivery mode

Level 2: You will not be required to attend in person. All teaching and assessment will have a remote option. The following activities will also have an on campus / in person option:  labs and field trips.

Level 3 / 4: All teaching activities and assessments are delivered remotely

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 05/12/2020 07:15 p.m.