Animal Morphology (from Sea Sponges to Vertebrates)

Course content

In this course we study marine, freshwater, and terrestrial animals from the simplest forms to vertebrates. In the classes we integrate laboratory practicals and lectures. We dissect and demonstrate representatives from most animal phyla with emphasis on their morphology, development, and general biology. In the lectures, we put emphasis on topics such as embryology, larval development, life cycles, body skeletons, motility, reproduction, and managing of body functions in general. We emphasize an evolutionary approach, where animal structure and function is seen in the context of both phylogeny and adaptation. You will also get hands on training using modern morphological instruments and learn how to interpret results from videos of live animal and from electron and confocal microcopy. We make much use of the specimens in the Natural History Museum, including show around in the museum collections and information on the use of the collections in research and outreach to the public. By focussing solely on zoology and by integrating newest research, the course represents a significant expansion of the zoological part of ‘organismernes diversitet’.


MSc Programme in Biology
MSc Programme in Biology with a minor subject

Learning outcome


The student will gain knowledge about marine, freshwater, terrestrial animals from the simplest forms to vertebrates.


After having participated in the course the student can describe the variation in body organization and function within the Animal Kingdom and give examples on how non-related organs can serve the same function (convergence), as well as on how the same original structure through evolution can end up serving quite different functions (homology). The student will also be able to dissect specimens of most larger animal groups and present arguments for how they should placed in the Animal Kingdom and account for aspects of the morphological, fossil and molecular background for current hypotheses concerning animal classification


The student will obtain a broad knowledge of the diversity and evolution of the entire Animal Kingdom from the simplest forms (e.g., sea sponges) to mammals and birds. The course has its basis in classical zoology and at the same time cover the newest research within morphology, systematic and evolution of all important animal groups. The course provides an ideal background for other courses in biology (e.g., ecology and physiology) and is also a useful supporting course for palaeontologists. The course provides an essensial basis for many types of professions within sustainability, marine biology and conservation.

Lectures and practical exercises

See Absalon.

Open for students with a bachelor in biology and others with a comparable background in zoology.

Academic qualifications equivalent to a BSc degree is recommended.

Continuous feedback during the course
Feedback by final exam (In addition to the grade)
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Oral examination, 20 min
Type of assessment details
No preparation time.
Without aids
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Several internal examiners.
Criteria for exam assessment

Se målbeskrivelsen

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 66
  • Preparation
  • 89
  • Practical exercises
  • 50
  • Exam
  • 1
  • English
  • 206


Course number
7,5 ECTS
Programme level
Full Degree Master

1 block

Block 4
40 students
The number of seats may be reduced in the late registration period
Study Board for the Biological Area
Contracting department
  • The Natural History Museum of Denmark
Contracting faculty
  • Faculty of Science
Course Coordinator
  • Jørgen Olesen   (7-7176736c7a6c75477a757435727c356b72)

Natural History Museum of Denmark: Jørgen Olesen, R.M. Kristensen, Martin V. Sørensen, Morten Erik Allentoft (Globe), Peter Rask Møller, Knud Andreas Jønsson, Mark Scherz.
Department of Biology: A. Garm and Katrine Worsaae.

Saved on the 24-06-2022

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Courseinformation of students