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Lecture and practical synopsis

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Behavioural Evolution

Professor Rebecca KilnerProfessor Rufus Johnstone

How does behaviour enable individuals to adapt to an ever-changing physical and biological environment? We show how predictions can be derived from evolutionary theory and tested by comparative studies and experiments. Ecological factors provide the stage on which behaviour is played and natural selection favours those behavioural and developmental strategies which maximise an individual’s chances of survival and reproduction.

  • How do fitness trade-offs influence: reproductive strategies and parental care; group-living and competition for scarce resources?
  • How does adaptive behaviour develop and what determines the relative contribution of genes, learning and the wider environment?


Genes and Genomes

Dr Nick Mundy; Professor Chris Jiggins

Evolution of populations depends on their underlying genetics. Although the main principles of population genetics have long been established, advances in genomics over the past decade have resulted in a spectacular increase in our understanding of the genetic variation found in natural populations.

These lectures will examine the genetic changes to populations and genomes that occur during evolution, and how genetic data

can be used to reconstruct the evolutionary forces acting on populations and species. These principles will be further illustrated with lectures on the evolution of hosts, pathogens and infectious disease.

We will explore:

  • The genetic processes and principles that underlie evolutionary change.
  • Using genetic data to make inferences about evolutionary processes.


Macroevolution and Diversity

Professor Frank JigginsDr Jason HeadDr Rob Asher

This section will focus on three areas:

  • Phylogeny, speciation and macroevolution.
  • Vertebrate origins, systematics, and development.
  • Amniote evolution and diversity.

Lectures will cover the construction of phylogenies and their use in comparative analysis, and ancestral state reconstruction. We will also discuss the importance of considering incomplete lineage sorting and hybridisation in phylogeny reconstruction, and how phylogenies can be used to study patterns of diversification and the drivers of speciation. Lectures will explore the evolution of embryological growth, skeletal tissues, respiratory and circulatory systems, metabolism, sensory systems in vertebrates.

Vertebrates are among the most complex and morphologically diverse animals. We will examine developmental, fossil, and modern anatomical data in order to understand the evolution of tissue systems during major transitions in vertebrate history. These events include the evolution of paired appendages and jaws, the emergence onto land from water, and the origins of endothermy.



Dr Walter FederleDr Marta Zlatic

Insects are the most diverse and successful group of animals on Earth. Wewill seek to explain the insects’ success by studying their adaptations to an enormous diversity of life styles, looking at their physiology, ecology and evolution.

In order to understand the neural control of complex and adaptive behaviour we need to clarify the ways in which animal brains function, how they operate in the detection and processing of sensory information and how sensory and motor functions are finally integrated at the level of neurons and networks to generate behaviour.

The lectures and practical classes will explore:

  • Insect cuticle, respiration, water balance, locomotion, feeding and insect-plant relationships.
  • The cellular basis of neural processing, olfactory, visual, auditory and somatosensory pathways in insects, and decision making and memory circuits.