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Unit information: Phylogenetic Methods in Palaeobiology in 2016/17

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Unit name Phylogenetic Methods in Palaeobiology
Unit code EASCM0035
Credit points 10
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1B (weeks 7 - 12)
Unit director Professor. Pisani
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Earth Sciences
Faculty Faculty of Science

Description including Unit Aims

This is an advanced unit on current methods in discovering and working with phylogenetic trees. Themes covered include cladistic analysis, supertree methods, molecular phylogenetic techniques, and comparative phylogenetic analysis. In addition, themes in phylogenetic macroevolution are covered. Students learn the current methods, debates, and relevant software routines throughout.

Intended Learning Outcomes

The learning outcomes of this unit are mainly practical, including the ability to:

  • Learn transferable skills that are of use outside palaeontology (e.g. working in a Unix environment, statistical software)
  • Analyse morphological and molecular data to determine the evolutionary relationships of living and extinct organisms
  • Use appropriate software (e.g. Paup, MacClade), including original software developed in Bristol to test the veracity of phylogenetic hypotheses
  • Learn about morphological character coding, homology, and discovery of the tree of life
  • Understand the Molecular clock and methods in molecular phylogenetics and phylogenomics
  • Learn about a range of cladistic and molecular tree-finding methods - in a parsimony, maximum likelihood, and Bayesian framework

Teaching Information

Lectures and practicals

Assessment Information

Continuous assessment (100%). A series of exercises distributed across three practical sessions will be completed. One single write-up covering all three practical sessions will be submitted and this will be graded as a single exercise.

Reading and References

  • Benton, M. J. and Harper, D. A. T. (2009) Introduction to Paleobiology and the fossil record. Wiley-Blackwell.
  • Briggs, D. E. G. and Crowther, P. R. (2001) Palaeobiology II. Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford.
  • Foote, M. & Miller, A. I. (2006) Principles of paleontology. W.H. Freeman, San Francisco.
  • Smith, A.B. 1994. Systematics and the fossil record. Blackwell