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Unit information: Sex, Behaviour and Life Histories in 2021/22

Unit name Sex, Behaviour and Life Histories
Unit code BIOL30013
Credit points 10
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Dr. Rands
Open unit status Not open

None, but we strongly advise that students should previously have studied BIOL20104 Behavioural Ecology. If you have not taken this unit, consult the Unit Director for suggested background reading.



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

Description including Unit Aims

Why does sex exist and why are there two sexes? How should animals organize their lives; when should they reproduce, where should they live, should they breed once or repeatedly and how many offspring should they have? Why must they grow old and die? During this unit we will present a unified evolutionary approach to explore the answers to these questions and understand the major factors shaping an organism’s life history, from birth, through growth, maturation and reproduction, to death. We will use economic (cost-benefit) principles to examine the trade-offs organisms face when they allocate time, energy and other resources to competing activities. This approach helps explain both the diversity of life-histories and fundamental properties of living things such as sex, individuality, death and the very design of the genome itself.

Intended Learning Outcomes

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

1. Explain the principles behind the main theoretical models in behavioural and evolutionary ecology;

2. Illustrate how these theories explain the major differences observed in the life histories and behavioural strategies of organisms;

3. Apply your knowledge and understanding of the principles of 1 and 2 above, supported by appropriate examples from the scientific literature, to propose hypotheses to explain novel observations and scenarios;

4. Apply the knowledge of relevant scientific literature to devise means of testing hypotheses proposed in 3, above.

5. Evaluate the strength of evidence presented in scientific literature relevant to the principles covered in the unit.

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.


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. BIOL30013).

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.