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Unit information: Evolutionary Ecology 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 Evolutionary Ecology
Unit code BIOL31136
Credit points 10
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Professor. Genner
Open unit status Not open

None, but we recommend that students should have taken BIOL11000, BIOL12000 and BIOL20212 Evolutionary Biology.



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

Description including Unit Aims

The theory of natural selection is core to our understanding of how life evolves. This unit will focus on how natural selection has promoted evolution of biodiversity, using examples from a range of model adaptive radiations, including Darwin's finches, African cichlid fishes and Anolis lizards. The unit will explore how selection on functional genes has driven evolution of key morphological and ecological traits, how environmental regimes drive and alter this selection, and how natural and sexual selection combine to drive the evolution of species.


This unit will focus on how natural selection has promoted evolution of biodiversity. Examples of key concepts will be drawn from a range of model systems, including adaptive radiations of Darwin’s finches, African cichlid fishes and Anolis lizards.

Intended Learning Outcomes

By the end of this unit you will have a solid understanding of how natural selection operates, and how recent research has advanced the field. Students will gain a better appreciation of why model systems are used in the study of adaptive evolution, how we are able to reconstruct the evolutionary history of these systems, and how new techniques are enabling us to gain novel insight into the mechanisms that have promoted remarkable diversification in short periods of evolutionary time.

Teaching Information

Lectures, interactive seminars/workshops and independent study.

Assessment Information

End of Session exam (100%).

Reading and References

Much of the lecture material for the specific topics considered in this Unit is taken from research papers.

Key reference material will be made available on Blackboard following each lecture.

Recommended texts include: Barton N. (2007) Evolution. Cold Spring Harbour Laboratory Press, New York. Grant P.R. & Grant BR (2008) How and why species multiply: The radiation of Darwin's finches. Princeton University Press. New Jersey.