Neurobiology, Animal Behaviour and Evolution in the Field

Module code: NT3007

This module will provide an understanding of both the neural and the evolutionary basis of animal behaviour. In the first half of the module, you will focus on how nervous systems function to generate behaviour in a range of animal species. You’ll also explore how ecological pressures shape the evolution of animal behaviour and the genetic basis that underpins this. You will examine how factors such as the limitation of resources, predation, parental care and animal cooperation work together to determine the behavioural characteristics of various animal species. You will explore how considering animals as economic decision makers demonstrate how they maximise a range of ‘currencies’ and ultimately reproductive fitness. This module will also introduce theories used to explain the evolution of group living, cooperation and parental care, and conflicts between different animals of the same species.

In the second half of this module, you‘ll explore “Evolution In The Field”. You’ll investigate the Mediterranean island ecosystem of Mallorca in the field, addressing themes relating to evolutionary biology. You will investigate habitats found in the Mediterranean biome, and develop your understanding of the function of the plants, animals and their communities. A central aim of the module is to develop your understanding of the ecology of natural selection, adaptation and gene flow, set in species and speciation. This knowledge will lead you to conduct your own research project to cement your understanding and practice of field biology skills.

Topics covered

  • Aspects of animal behaviour
  • The effect of ecological phenomena on behaviour and evolution
  • Concepts and mechanisms for the formation of species
  • Experimental approaches to evolutionary biology
  • Mathematical approaches to understanding ecology

Learning

  • 31 hours of lectures
  • 6 hours of seminars
  • 11 hours of tutorials
  • 28 hours of practical classes and workshops
  • 72 hours of fieldwork
  • 152 hours of guided independent study

Assessment

  • Coursework (20%)
  • Practical report (10%)
  • Project (10%)
  • Exam, 2 hours (30%)
  • Exam, 1.5 hours (30%)