Systematics and Evolution of Marine Invertebrates

Undergraduate course

Course description

Objectives and Content

«Systematics and Evolution of Marine Invertebrates» is a voyage through the tree-of-life of Metazoans, offering a comprehensive overview of the diversity of invertebrate animals (phyla), morphological traits, and latest hypotheses of evolutionary relationships based on molecular phylogenetics.

A suit of laboratory activities gives students a truly hands-on experience and opportunity to explore the morphology of a large ensemble of major representatives of the Animal Kingdom, through the observation of life and preserved specimens, anatomical dissections, interpretation of anatomical slides, optical and electron microscopy.

Learning Outcomes

At the end of the course, the student should have the following learning outcomes:


The student:

  • will learn about the entire diversity and ecology of the phyla of the Animal Kingdom
  • will acquire knowledge on the principles of taxonomy, evolution, and phylogenetic theory
  • will learn how to interpret the Tree of Life and the relationships between the phyla of the Animal Kingdom, from sponges to protochordates


The student:

  • will be able to describe the morphology and anatomy of the different phyla of invertebrate animals and how they are adapted to the living environment
  • will acquire competences on basic anatomical dissection and drawing techniques
  • will acquire competences on optical and electron microscopy techniques
  • will be able to organize, structure, and put together an oral presentation for a scientific meeting

General competence

The student:

  • will acquire competences to understand and discuss conflictive hypotheses on the evolution of the animal Tree of Life
  • will be able to explain the concepts and terms that underlie phylogenetic classifications and hypotheses
  • will recognize the potential of electron microscopy for morphological and evolutionary studies of animals
  • will develop a critical attitude towards scientific literature (papers)
  • will understand the dynamics of the scholarly process that underlies the formulation of scientific hypotheses

ECTS Credits


Level of Study

Advanced bachelor students and master students.

Semester of Instruction

Autumn, every second year (even years).


This course has a limited capacity, enrolment is based on application. The application deadline is Wednesday in week 33 for the autumn semester. Please see this page for more information. You will receive confirmation of whether you received a seat in Studentweb no later than Monday the week after the deadline.

It is compulsory to attend the first lecture/orientation meeting, or you risk losing your seat. If you are unable to attend the first lecture, you must contact the Study Section ( The time of the first lecture/orientation meeting can be found in the schedule on the course website or on Mitt UiB.

Place of Instruction

Required Previous Knowledge
Compulsory courses in bachelor's in biology, or equivalent courses.
Recommended Previous Knowledge
Fundamental courses in organismal biology (e.g. BIO101, BIO102).
Credit Reduction due to Course Overlap
Access to the Course
In order to be admitted to the course, you must be admitted to a study programme at the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences.
Teaching and learning methods
Lectures, seminars and laboratory activities with hands-on anatomical dissections, optical and scanning electron microscopy sessions. 
Compulsory Assignments and Attendance
  • Attendance at lectures.
  • Attendance and presentation at seminar.
  • Attendance and participation in all laboratory activities, incl. laboratory report.
  • Approved compulsory activities are valid for 6 semesters, including the semester of completion. Compulsory activities have to be passed in order to take the exam.

    Forms of Assessment

    Portfolio assessment, consisting of:


    • Written digital exam, accounts 50 % of final grade.
    • Approved laboratory report, accounts for 35% of final grade.
    • Presentation at seminar*, accounts for 15% of final grade.


    * A seminar day will be organized where all students must present an oral presentation (15 min + 5 min for discussion) on a given topic (group of animals chosen by the student). The seminar day offers students a training opportunity in the preparation and presentation of seminars at scientific meetings.

    Grading Scale
    Grading scale A-F, where grade A is the highest passing grade, and grade F is a fail.
    Assessment Semester
    The written digital exam is held in both semesters. In semesters with no teaching, the exam is held early in the semester.
    Reading List
    The literature list will be available by June 1st for the autumn semester and December 1st for the spring semester.
    Course Evaluation
    Students will evaluate the course in accordance with the quality assurance system at UiB and the Department. You can find course evaluations in the Quality Assurance Reports
    Examination Support Material
    Programme Committee
    The Programme Board is responsible for the content, structure and quality of the course.
    Course Administrator
    The Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences by the Department of Biological Sciences has the administrative responsibility for the course.