Evolutionary and Developmental Biology

Module code: BS2076

This module provides a thorough grounding in developmental biology with an emphasis on a range of topics including fertilization, cell and tissue differentiation, pattern formation, cell-cell communication and the importance of gene expression and epigenetics in these processes. The common and divergent processes that underpin development and generate different cell and tissue types (morphogenesis) in diverse organisms will be examined and discussed. 

The old chestnut says “nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution” and this module will further address the evolution of developmental processes in diverse organisms and how understanding “evo-devo” can explain why organisms have such diverse morphologies or, as Darwin described it, “endless forms most beautiful”. We will focus on how key genes conserved across evolution specify why there are eye structures as diverse as our camera-type eye and the primitive cup-like ”eye” of amphioxus, why rice flowers have no petals while roses have so many and why butterfly wings have such an array of patterns.

Given that medicine is a subset of biology, evolution must also be of importance to those interested in health and disease. This module provides the knowledge of evolutionary biology required to understand how the process of evolution affects traits in health and disease.