skip to primary navigationskip to content

Aims and structure

Course Aims


To provide a course on evolutionary biology that introduces you to the major principles of evolutionary theory, and ranges from the origins of life, through the evolution of plants and animals to the evolution of humans and behaviour, culminating in a look at the future of evolution and diversity in the context of human-mediated global change to prepare you for subsequent biology courses that require an understanding of evolution and behaviour.


  • To show how natural selection ultimately underpins all biological processes and how evolution has generated biological diversity;
  • To outline the major transitions in evolution, from the origin of life and of sex, to hominid evolution;
  • To investigate the evolutionary basis of behaviour in animals, including humans and other primates;
  • To gain a clear appreciation of the critical consequences of global change on the evolution and diversity of life;
  • To develop your practical biological skills.

Learning outcomes

At the end of the course you should

  • Have an enhanced knowledge and appreciation of evolutionary biology and behaviour;
  • Be able to develop cogent and critical arguments based on the course material;
  • Be able to perform, analyse and report on experiments and observations in whole-organism biology;
  • Be able to integrate related topics from separate parts of the course.

Course Structure


There are three lectures per week, held at 11am on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays in the Main Lecture Theatre of the Department of Zoology on the New Museums Site. Synopses of these lectures are given in the course handbook.


Biology is an experimental subject: The course therefore provides hands-on experience of basic techniques and experimental approaches and an opportunity to see a wide range of organisms. The practicals are an integral part of the course and it is essential that you attend all of them. Practicals are held in the Elementary Laboratory of the Department of Zoology. 
You will do a four-hour practical every other week either on a Monday or a Tuesday. Both practicals run from 12 - 1, and 2 - 5.
You will have been registered for either the odd or even weeks of term.

Please ensure you sign the register for each practical class you attend. The register, along with other information, will be posted on the Evolution and Behaviour noticeboard in the Elementary Lab. If for some reason you cannot attend your assigned practical time please email with details.

You are expected to write up each practical. With the exception of the first practical in Michaelmas Term, all practicals will be formally assessed and form part of your total mark in this subject for the year as a whole. This assessed practical must be written up and handed in during the practical session.

Field Courses

You have the opportunity to attend one of two one-week field courses held away from Cambridge in the Easter Vacation. These courses are very popular and provide students with a great opportunity to gain valuable experience in the field. For more information please see our field course page: