Introduction to Evolution and Animal Biology

This first year module provides a broad introduction to whole animal biology. The first half of the module provides a gentle introduction to evolution by exploring the history of evolutionary thinking that led to our modern understanding of evolutionary processes such as natural selection, gene flow and speciation. Examples of evolution are taken from both the animal and plant kingdoms to illustrate some of the core concepts.

We also consider human evolution in some detail in this first half of the module. In the second half the focus shifts to include the key principles of animal anatomy, behaviour, ecology, morphology and physiology as we consider the basic biology of selected taxa such as birds, insects and mammals.

You will be shown how such knowledge can be applied through assessed practical sessions that develop skills in observation, illustration, and the handling and simple analysis of data generated in class.

By the end of the module you should be able to:

  • understand the development and current impact of evolutionary thought
  • outline the mechanisms of the origin and early development of life
  • demonstrate a working knowledge of the mechanism of natural selection
  • understand the need for, and the parameters of, taxonomy
  • define `species’ and `selection’ in a number of contexts. Interpret adaptations in terms of increased fitness and environment
  • understand the genetic mechanisms underpinning evolution
  • outline the major phenotypic changes and the potential selective pressures driving the evolution of humans. Relate the functional morphology and physiology of different animal groups to their wider biology
  • understand the methods by which the behaviour of animals is studied, recorded and interpreted
  • carry out laboratory experiments, reflect on these and record, analyse and interpret results
  • apply knowledge in data-handling and problem-solving