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Unit information: Evolutionary Biology in 2019/20

Please note: Due to alternative arrangements for teaching and assessment in place from 18 March 2020 to mitigate against the restrictions in place due to COVID-19, information shown for 2019/20 may not always be accurate.

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 Biology
Unit code BIOL20212
Credit points 10
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1B (weeks 7 - 12)
Unit director Professor. Jones
Open unit status Not open




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

Description including Unit Aims

Understanding evolution by natural selection is central to all aspects of biology, and evolution is one of the key intellectual pursuits in science. This course will cover the origin of life, patterns in the history of life, and the evolution of biological diversity. We will describe studies from palaeontology, biogeography through to molecular genetics. Topics include: mutation, selection and adaptation, the origin of life, the evolution of eukaryotes, the evolution of sex, patterns in the history of life, population genetics, genome evolution, the nature of species, speciation, adaptive radiation, microevolution in action, phylogeny and classification, evolutionary biogeography, patterns in the evolution of biological diversity, evolution of the human condition and molecular approaches to understanding evolution. Coursework includes analysis of natural selection in the wild, and an essay on the origin of life.


The aims of the unit are to ask interesting questions about evolution, to evaluate the evidence that evolution is a fact, and to read and critically evaluate papers from the primary literature about evolution.

Intended Learning Outcomes

You should be able to evaluate the evidence that evolution is a fact, and to read and critically evaluate papers from the primary literature about evolution.

Teaching Information

3 x 1 hour weekly lectures

Optional clinics will be arranged twice weekly to assist with queries from the first coursework exercise during the time available for completing the exercises Self-directed learning week. Students are expected to spend this time on directed reading.

Assessment Information

Attendance at practicals and completion of specified practical reports is mandatory.

Continuous assessment (40%) will consist of coursework marks detailed above. You will complete the practicals in your own time, after being given an introductory class. End of Year exam (60%).

Reading and References

Herron, J.C. & Freeman, S. (2015). Evolutionary Analysis. 5th Edition. Benjamin Cummings.

Zimmer, C. & Emlen, D.J. (2016). Evolution: making sense of life. MacMillan learning.

Many useful papers are published in Nature, Science, Trends in Ecology and Evolution, Systematic Biology and Evolution. These are all available online.