Evolution of Humans and Other Animals
The primary aim of this module is to provide students with a comprehensive understanding of comparative animal biology in an evolutionary context.
BSc (Hons) Biological Sciences, BSc (Hons) Human Biology, BSc (Hons) Palaeobiology and Palaeoenvironments
Humans are part of the animal kingdom, and our own evolution is also best understood from this perspective. We will develop student understanding of evolution in the four dimensions in which it occurs: genetic, epigeneic, behavioural and symbolic, and how these dimensions interact in different ways in different species during the process of evolutionary change.
The module will include a number of practicals to give students experience of handling and interpreting fossil material, particularly Mesozoic reptiles and great apes, including early hominins. These practicals will help students understand the extent to which it is possible to infer behaviour, social organisation, culture, ecological context etc. of extinct animals from the fossil record. We will also have workshops to facilitate thought experiments on the evolutionary consequences of future events (e.g. major climate change or key species being wiped out) and to debate, within the group, pressing questions surrounding evolution.
By the end of the module students should be able to:
- Understand that in addition to genetic inheritance, epigenetic, behavioural and cultural inheritance provides variation on which natural selection can act
- Critically compare and synthesize information from molecular biology and behavioural ecology to develop an integrated underestanding of the four dimensions through which evolution occurs
- Describe major events in animal evolution and their impact on biodiversity
- Explain how human adaptations show that modern humans and our ancestors have been subject to the same evolutionary processes as the rest of the animal kingdom
- Understand the origins of different forms of similarity between different species, and be able to differentiate between them, using examples
- Understand and discuss evolutionary principles sufficiently well to be able to 1) conduct thought experiments on the evolutionary consequences of future events and 2) convey evolutionary principles and events in an appropriate way for school children to understand
- Work as a team to examine fossil remains to establish genus/species, morphological similarities and key life history traits
- Formulate and express own ideas concisely through independent learning and writing
- Construct a logically sound well structured argument when writing and be able to recognise and critically analyse weak arguments when reading them
- Use the skills gained in the peer marking sessions to reflect on ways to improve their own academic writing