nl en



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. We will discuss how the fossil record can help us to understand extant biodiversity and biodiversity changes.

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


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, practicals, museum visit, tour in Leiden and workgroups

Assessment method

The final grade consists of the following partical grades:

  • Written exam (1/3)

  • Group presentation (1/3)

  • Group report (1/3)

Minimum grade:
Courses require a minimum, unrounded 5.5 grade to complete.

If a course has 2 or more written partial exams, the minimum grade only applies to the weighted average of the exams.
For partial grades from components other than exams (e.g. practicals, seminars, writing assignments), the bottom grade does apply to the individual components.

Please refer to the Student Charter for an overview of regulations.

Reading list



All students have 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


Your registration is not complete if you have not registered for all course components available in my study map (exam, lecture, etc.).
A maximum of 40 students can follow this course.