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Admission requirements

This course is for MSc students in Biology.


The biodiversity of extant organisms is a result of millions of years of evolution, documented in the fossil record. In this course an overview of paleobiology, the science studying fossils, and its importance for biology will be given. The origin of life and its evolution will be seen in context of geological processes forming sediments preserving fossils, changes of the environment and the geography on earth. We will discuss the geological and paleontological history of the Netherlands as an example. Taphonomic processes restricting the fossil record and difficulties interpreting earliest records of life will be discussed. The evolution of organisms in deep time and characteristic fossils will be studied in examples and paleobiological techniques taught (3D visualization, phylogenies, database analysis, etc.). A major emphasis is on invertebrate and vertebrate paleontology with hands-on experience.

Course objectives

After completion of the course, students are able to:

  • Provide an overview of the evolutionary history of the earth and its biodiversity

  • Understand the principals of paleobiology and the importance for biology

  • Apply methods of geology, sedimentology and paleobiology research

  • Analyse and evaluate biodiversity and evolutionary patterns in deep time

  • Create a report on the macroevolution of invertebrates and vertebrates using palaeobiology data

Final qualifications:
Overview of paleobiological topics, concepts and methods and being able to apply them.
Ability to critically evaluate hypotheses from biology research in the light of deep-time evolution.


You will find the timetables for all courses and degree programmes of Leiden University in the tool MyTimetable (login). Any teaching activities that you have sucessfully registered for in MyStudyMap will automatically be displayed in MyTimeTable. Any timetables that you add manually, will be saved and automatically displayed the next time you sign in.

MyTimetable allows you to integrate your timetable with your calendar apps such as Outlook, Google Calendar, Apple Calendar and other calendar apps on your smartphone. Any timetable changes will be automatically synced with your calendar. If you wish, you can also receive an email notification of the change. You can turn notifications on in ‘Settings’ (after login).

For more information, watch the video or go the the 'help-page' in MyTimetable. Please note: Joint Degree students Leiden/Delft have to merge their two different timetables into one. This video explains how to do this.

Mode of instruction

Lectures and practicals

Assessment method

The final grade consists of the following partical grades:

  • Written exam (1/3)

  • Presentation (1/3)

  • Report (1/3)

Reading list



From the academic year 2022-2023 on every student has to register for courses with the new enrollment tool MyStudyMap. There are two registration periods per year: registration for the fall semester opens in July and registration for the spring semester opens in December. Please see this page for more information.

Please note that it is compulsory to both preregister and confirm your participation for every exam and retake. Not being registered for a course means that you are not allowed to participate in the final exam of the course. Confirming your exam participation is possible until ten days before the exam.

Extensive FAQ's on MyStudymap can be found here.


Coordinator: Dr. M. Rücklin


From 10 April to May 5 2023, except for Wednesday afternoons.