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Welcome to Part IB Evolution & Animal Diversity


Current students: once you have enrolled on this course you will automatically be added to the Moodle site which contains the Course Handbook, a more detailed synopsis of lectures/practicals and other useful information. If you join the course late, please contact the course administrator ( to request access.

This course examines the principles of evolution and how they can explain the extraordinary adaptations and diversity of animal life. The course comprises four sections: Behavioural Evolution, Genes and Genomes, Macroevolution and Diversity, and Adaptations, taught by lecturers who are actively researching in these fields. After completing the course you should be familiar with the fundamental principles of evolution, and how behavioural, anatomical and physiological adaptations of animals have evolved. This will prepare you for Part II modules related to organismal and evolutionary biology and genetics.

Each six-lecture block will be accompanied by a practical related to the lectured material and designed to develop your scientific skills. Practical work consists of experiments, behavioural observations and observation of specimens; your write-ups of the practicals will be assessed and will contribute to your final mark.  Films, computer simulations, seminars and Museum tours are included as appropriate. 

Lectures: take place on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 11am

Practicals: take place every other week on either Wednesday or Thursday 12-5pm in the Department of Zoology's Elementary Laboratory

Prerequisites: there is no prerequisite for this course. Whilst it may be an advantage to have taken Part IA Evolution and Behaviour, it is not necessary to have taken this or any other particular first year course. Interested students who have no experience of biological courses in Part IA are advised to consult their Director of Studies.

Supervisions: In Part IB Evolution & Animal Diversity, students are commonly assigned different specialist supervisors for different parts of the course. The appointment of supervisors is the responsibility of your Director of Studies. The course organiser (Dr Robert Asher) can help by informing Directors of Studies of the names of those willing to supervise. When you know the name of your supervisor, get together with your college supervision partners and contact the supervisor in good time. If you do not know the name of your supervisor before the start of the relevant block of lectures, contact your Director of Studies without delay.

You should expect your supervisor to set at least two essays, or comparable exercises, for each section of the course, together with appropriate additional work based on the lectures and practicals. Past Tripos papers are held in the Balfour Library Office in the Department of Zoology and you are well advised to become familiar with the structure of the papers and the sorts of questions that have previously been set. Copies of previous examination papers will be made available on the course Moodle site.

Supervisions offer an extremely valuable opportunity to discuss your work in depth. Not only do they help you to obtain a good understanding of the subject matter; they also help develop your ability to present material orally and in writing.

Key Contacts

Course organiser: Dr Robert Asher

Senior Examiner: Dr James Herbert-Read

Course administrator: Francesca Anthony ()

The course timetable will be made available in due course at