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Unit information: Staying Alive: The Behaviour, Psychology and Ecology of Predator-Prey Interactions in 2021/22

Unit name Staying Alive: The Behaviour, Psychology and Ecology of Predator-Prey Interactions
Unit code BIOL30010
Credit points 10
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Dr. Christos Ioannou
Open unit status Not open




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

Description including Unit Aims

Predator-prey interactions are a major force in evolution, shaping morphology, physiology and behaviour; they also drive many population processes. This is because, for prey, predation is a major source of mortality and, for predators, it provides the major source of energy and nutrients. A complete understanding of predator-prey interactions is a fundamentally multidisciplinary enterprise, not only linking evolution and ecology but also with inputs from animal behaviour and psychology, because seeking prey and avoiding attack require an understanding of perception and decision-making. In this unit, we survey this exciting and growing field from these multiple perspectives, extending principles covered in second year behaviour and behavioural ecology units to understand issues as diverse as habitat selection, search behaviour, escape, armour, colouration (camouflage, warning coloration, mimicry), and social behaviour from group hunting to collective defence. Throughout the unit we particularly emphasise the need to understand predator traits as well as the anti-predator traits in prey, the ecological impacts of predator-prey interactions, and how technology has been developed and used to study predator-prey interactions.

Intended Learning Outcomes

By the end of this unit, students should be able to:

  1. Explain the general theoretical principles underlying successful attack and defence.
  2. Explain how the strategies involved in attack and defence can have consequences at larger (ecological and evolutionary) scales.
  3. Explain why and how perception and cognition can shape the evolution of form and behaviour.
  4. Illustrate how different levels of analysis (mechanism, development, function, evolution) can be integrated to explain behaviour and morphology.
  5. Evaluate the strength of evidence presented in scientific papers relevant to the theories covered in the unit.
  6. Apply their knowledge and understanding (of principles 1 to 4 above), supported by appropriate examples from the scientific literature, to propose hypotheses to explain novel scenarios.
  7. Apply their knowledge of relevant scientific literature to propose tests for the hypotheses proposed in 6, above.

Teaching Information

Lectures, directed reading, research and/or problem-solving activities; and independent study.

Assessment Information

Summative written assessment, with one essay question to be selected from a choice of two.


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How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.