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Module OSX-3020:
Sharks and their Relatives

Module Facts

Run by School of Ocean Sciences

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 1

Organiser: Dr Gareth Williams

Overall aims and purpose

This module will examine the evolutionary history, taxonomic diversity and ecology of sharks and their relatives. Particular consideration will be given to shark population ecology, physiology and feeding, movement patterns, and human impacts to shark populations and attempts to mitigate these impacts. Current research relating to various anthropogenic impacts and conservation issues such as by-catch, shark finning, pollution and habitat destruction will also be presented and discussed.

Course content

Evolutionary history of sharks The differences between sharks and some of their relatives (e.g. rays) Shark sensory ecology Technologies relating to tagging and tracking Population ecology Shark physiology Anthropogenic impacts and conservations issues Specific ecosystem case study discussions

Assessment Criteria


The students should be able to express a basic factual knowledge of at least some part of the core material presented in the module, and be able to show some level of appreciate how the ecology of elasmobranchs and oceanographic drivers combine to help explain distributions and migrations. The students should have demonstrated the ability to follow laboratory procedures, collect and collate and analyse their own data, and to show some appreciation of how these results fit within the current literature.


The students should demonstrate comprehensive factual knowledge, critical understanding of theory, evidence of extensive extra reading of primary literature and the ability to integrate this extra knowledge in a relevant manner. Demonstrating a clear understanding of the complexities of ecological and oceanographic factors and these combine to aid our understanding of elasmobranch populations. The students should have demonstrated excellent laboratory practices, and the ability to analyse and present their own data in a clear and concise manner, and to show evidence of extensive extra reading from primary sources, discussing their own data in a wholly justified manner.


The students should be able to express a thorough factual knowledge of much of the core material presented in the module, and have a competent and detailed ability to critically evaluate the principles and processes governing the interactions of organisms and their environment, both ecologically and oceanographically. Some evidence of further reading and ability to integrate material from the full range of the lecture content. The students should have demonstrated good laboratory practices, and the ability to analyse and present their own data in a clear and concise manner, and to show a good level of additional reading; using a wide range of literature to make sensible inferences about their own data.

Learning outcomes

  1. To gain experience with processing and analysing shark survey data

  2. To gain experience handling existing shark population/ecological data.

  3. Demonstrate an appreciation of the current and future anthropogenic pressure on elasmobranch populations.

  4. Demonstrate a detailed understanding of essential facts, major concepts, principles and theories associated with elasmobranch ecology and physiology.

  5. Demonstrate knowledge of the population dynamics of shark populations

  6. Demonstrate a knowledge of laboratory skills associated with preparing and observing elasmobranch sensory organs.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
EXAM Exam 50
CLASS TEST Shark Sensory Assignment 30
CLASS TEST BRUV practical test 20

Teaching and Learning Strategy


21 x 1 hour lecture


2 x 6 hour

Private study

Self study for reading and preparation of coursework. Revision time for exam.


1 x Shark computer practical - analysing existing shark data.


Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Numeracy - Proficiency in using numbers at appropriate levels of accuracy
  • Computer Literacy - Proficiency in using a varied range of computer software
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
  • Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
  • Safety-Consciousness - Having an awareness of your immediate environment, and confidence in adhering to health and safety regulations
  • Presentation - Able to clearly present information and explanations to an audience. Through the written or oral mode of communication accurately and concisely.
  • Teamwork - Able to constructively cooperate with others on a common task, and/or be part of a day-to-day working team
  • Management - Able to utilise, coordinate and control resources (human, physical and/or financial)
  • Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting
  • Self-awareness & Reflectivity - Having an awareness of your own strengths, weaknesses, aims and objectives. Able to regularly review, evaluate and reflect upon the performance of yourself and others


Resource implications for students


Reading list

  1. Carrier JC et al. (2004) Biology of sharks and their relatives (ebook, hard copy)

  2. Camhi MD et al. (ed) Sharks of the open ocean (ebook)

  3. Hamlett C (1999) Sharks, skates, and rays: the biology of elasmobranch fishes (ebook, hard copy)

Courses including this module

Compulsory in courses:

Optional in courses: