Course content

Reptiles and amphibians have very little in common apart from the fact that they often seem to attract the attention from the same group of enthusiastic naturalists collectively known as herpetologists. The overall aim of this course is to turn you into one! Why do reptiles get cold when the temperature drops while you stay warm? Are snakes lizards without legs or are lizards snakes with legs? How do amphibians drink? What is the most powerful reptile venom in the world and how did it evolve? Why are 30% of the worlds amphibians threatened with extinction? How did the South American poison frogs develop such amazing colours? How do we study and monitor amphibians and reptiles in the wild? Why did two snake species disappear from Denmark during the last century, and how does a rattlesnake detect infrared radiation? These and many additional questions will be addressed during this intensive two-week summer course. Throughout the course there will be a strong focus on current research and applied science and it will involve both practical excercises and field trips.

Please notice that expenses for transport in connection with field trips must be expected.


BSc Programme in Biology - restricted elective

Learning outcome


The herpetofauna diversity is astonishing with more than 10.000 species of reptiles and more than 7.000 species of amphibians described worldwide. The course will provide the students with a solid background on the evolution, diversity and distribution of the main groups. Lectures will provide insights into selected aspects of reptile and amphibian anatomy, ecology, behavior, physiology, molecular evolution, population genetics, and conservation management.



The students will gain a thorough understanding of amphibian and reptile evolution and biology, allowing them to comprehend the global distribution of herpetological biodiversity and the many ecological niches covered by these animals. We will explore why many reptiles and amphibians are highly threatened, often serving as key species in conservation programmes. The students will become familiar with applied herpetological tools in the framework of research, monitoring, and conservation management.



The students will learn to recognize the most important taxonomic groups worldwide and be able to securely identify all Scandinavian reptiles and amphibians to species level. More generally, the student will gain hands-on experience with morphological identification keys and genetic species identification and phylogenetic analyses. If the weather allows, spotting, handling, and DNA-sampling reptiles and amphibians in the wild will also be part of the course. Lastly the students will be trained in reading and discussing primary scientific litterature (articles).


This summer course will be centred around a series of lectures that aim to provide the fundamental background in key topics. This will be followed up by 'case studies' that present scientific work and applied science. Specialists within the different areas will be invited to present their work. Group work and student presentations will also be part of the course as well as 1-2 field excursions.

A herpetological textbook, scientific articles, handbooks, manuals

The main part of the course will take place in Copenhagen - likely in Universitetsparken. The exact room to be announced prior to the course.

Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Type of assessment details
The portfolio exam consists of the following three parts:
1) Participation in daily group-work tasks, including brief ppt-presentations
2) Evaluation of 1 written report, with deadline one week after the course has ended.
3) Evaluation of 1 oral presentation on the last day of the course.
The evaluation is based on an overall assessment of the three sub-parts
Exam registration requirements

80% participation in lectures + 80% participation in practical exercises

All aids allowed
Marking scale
passed/not passed
Censorship form
No external censorship
No external censorship
Several internal examiners

The written reports can be handed in again in revised form

If the requirments for registration (80% participation) is not fulfilled the student must hand in an assignment within a theme of the teachers choice.


Criteria for exam assessment

80% participation in lectures + 80% participation in practical exercises

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 50
  • Preparation
  • 100
  • Practical exercises
  • 26
  • Excursions
  • 10
  • Project work
  • 20
  • English
  • 206


Course number
7,5 ECTS
Programme level

1 block

Weeks 26 & 27 - 9am-5pm.
25 students
Study Board for the Biological Area
Contracting department
  • Globe
  • The Natural History Museum of Denmark
Contracting faculty
  • Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences
Course Coordinator
  • Morten Erik Allentoft   (11-746c6873736c757b766d7b477a7c756b35727c356b72)

Morten Allentoft, Tejs Lind Nielsen + guest lecturers

Saved on the 20-12-2023

Are you BA- or KA-student?

Are you bachelor- or kandidat-student, then find the course in the course catalog for students:

Courseinformation of students