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Semester 1

Evolution in Action 2 (BILG08005)







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Equivalent of the courses listed above

Course Summary

An introduction to modern evolutionary biology, covering the origin of hereditary variation, natural selection, the origin of species, methods of phylogeny construction, major evolutionary events and coevolution. Examples will be drawn from all major taxa; molecular, cellular, morphological and behavioural evolution will be considered.

Course Description

Evolutionary biology is the subject of this course, and the aims are to outline the major processes giving rise to the diversity of extinct and extant organic life, to indicate the time frame over which these processes occur, and to introduce the methods used to study evolutionary processes. The examples used in the lectures and workshops are drawn from animals, plants and microorganisms, and the characters considered are behavioural, ecological, morphological, cellular and molecular.After outlining the ecological context of evolution, the process of evolutionary change leading to speciation is discussed. The origin and pattern of genetic variation in natural populations is then described, followed by a detailed examination of the evolutionary forces - natural selection, genetic drift and gene flow - that determine the fate of inherited variation. The evolution of social behaviour, particularly altruism and competition for mates, is discussed. Finally, the special role played by change in developmental processes in evolution is described.The workshops expand upon material described in the lectures and provide opportunity for discussion of the concepts and evidence involved. The workshops include demonstrations of the processes of evolution, genetic variation in natural populations and the methods by which it can be measured, and simple methods for interpreting such information and predicting the course of evolutionary change. Visits to Edinburgh Zoo and the National Museum of Scotland allow students to think about how the evolutionary concepts that they learn apply to real organisms. Facilitated discussions allow students to engage with their peers in examining some of the more complex or applied aspects of evolutionary biology.The course should be of interest to every biology student, because evolution is fundamental to understanding the nature of living organisms at all levels from the ecological to the molecular.

Assessment Information

Written Exam 0%, Coursework 100%, Practical Exam 0%

Additional Assessment Information

ICA only

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