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Unit information: Sex and Society in 2015/16

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name Sex and Society
Unit code BIOLM0017
Credit points 10
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Rands
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Biological Sciences
Faculty Faculty of Life Sciences

Description including Unit Aims

While BIOLNEW13 ‘Staying Alive’ emphasises individual behaviour, most animals will spend some part of their life associated with conspecifics and with other animals. For some, within-species socialisation only happens when they are trying to attract a mate and reproduce, whilst for others, constant social interaction at all levels is obligatory for survival. This unit will focus on the evolution, function and mechanisms of behaviour related to the different forms of interaction between animals. Lectures on current issues in the field will come from a range of world-leading research staff actively working at all levels of animal behaviour, and will include focus on current theoretical developments about group living, evolutionary arms races, game theory, cooperation and altruism, parental care, social evolution, and sexual selection and conflict. We will also examine whether complex social interaction demands specific cognitive skills and has been important in human evolution. Throughout the unit, emphasis will be made on the close links between theoretical and empirical work within the subject, and the experimental techniques necessary for investigating these links. Although, traditionally, mechanistic and evolutionary explanations for behaviour are considered, and taught, separately, here the goal is synthetic: to understand behaviour fully you need to integrate all levels of explanation.

Intended Learning Outcomes

On completion of this unit, students will be able to:

  1. Explain and evaluate current topics in animal behaviour related to social behaviour and evolution.
  2. Describe the purposes for using different experimental and theoretical approaches for investigating behaviour.
  3. Demonstrate the ability to evaluate and interpret experimental design critically.

Teaching Information

Lectures (12 hours), practical/field work (6 hours).

Assessment Information

Formative: Individual feedback will be provided on report from practical work (acting as formative feedback for later project work in the programme).

Summative: 2-hour written exam (100%)

Reading and References

Current reading will be recommended by the teaching staff, and will be drawn from the most recent literature.