Animal adaptation and behavioural biology

This specialisation mainly focuses on issues such as adaptation, the mechanisms that play a role in this, and animal behaviour.

What will you learn?

You become involved in understanding the adaptations of animals that have occurred in the course of time. This can be viewed for example as a cause of changing environmental factors. You can also explore the influence of hormones on animal behaviour. You learn, for example, the mechanisms that play a role in endocrine regulation. Besides, you can learn more about aquatic organisms. Moreover, you can look at adaptations in behaviour of different fish species for example.


If you choose this specialisation, you will follow the course Behavioural Ecology (YBE) in the first year. In this course you will look at how evolution by natural selection has led to a specific animal behaviour. In addition, you choose one of the following courses:

Functional Zoology (EZO) where you will gain practical skills in experimental research techniques and study modelling in functional zoology. Life history of aquatic organisms (AFI) covers the biology and ecology of aquatic organisms. Integrated neuroendocrinology (HAP) entails the hormone mechanisms in the brain.

Thesis and internship

In the second year you will start your own research (thesis) in one of the following chair groups: 

You can for example examine the movements and feeding behaviour of zebra fish larvae using a high speed. Or you look at the effect of wild boar on the seed dispersal by wood mouse. You try to learn more about the differences in learning and memory formation in non-learning parasitic wasp species. You will wonder about the adaptability of fish to different circumstances. Or you examine the endocrine regulation of male and female reproduction in relation to health. More examples of thesis subjects you can find at the bottom of this page.  

In the second half of your second year you will go on an internship. This can be a project at a company or organization outside Wageningen University. Recently, students following this specialisation have done the following internships:

  • Electrophysiological response and emotion recognition in male adolescents with psychiatri disorders; explained by attention to the eyes? (Karakter UC Child and adolescent psychiatry);
  • Mean net daily displacement distance and movement pattern in a non-habitat of the Scarce Large Blue (Maculinae teleius) butterfly in the Moerputten nature reserve (Dutch butterfly conservation);
  • Analysis of the effects of warm years on the life cycle of butterfly species (Dutch butterfly conservation).

Thesis examples

In the second year of the master's programme you will start your own research (thesis) at one of the chair groups. Beneath you will find examples of thesis subjects.

Chair group Aquaculture and fisheries

  • Coping strategies in farmed African catifish Clarias gariepinus. Does it affect their welfare?
  • Effect of some husbandry factors on behaviour and physiology of African catfish (Clarias gariepinus) and eel (Anguilla anguilla).

Chair group Entomology

  • Foraging behaviour of predators and parasites
  • What chemicals are induced in plants by herbivory, what is their effect on arthropod behaviour, and how do the cues affect interactions in the community?
  • Behavioural ecology of predator avoudance: how do predator cues affect prey behaviour?

Chair group Experimental zoology

  • Ecomorphology of carp-like fish species.

Chair group Human and animal physiology

  • Perinatal and chronic hypothyroidism impair behavioural development in male and female rats.
  • Hormonal regulation of puberty onset in female rats: is leptin a missing link?

Chair group Resource ecology

  • Hunting tactics of Peregrines and other falcons.
  • Mechanisms of small scale foraging by large herbivores.