Neurobiology and Animal Behaviour

Module code: BS2077

This module will provide a sound understanding of both the neural and the evolutionary basis of animal behaviour. In the first half of the module you focus on how nervous systems function to generate behaviour in a wide range of animal species, examples include: 

  • How do neural networks underpin bat echolocation 
  • Barn owl sound localisation
  • How some fishes can sense their environment through self-generated electric fields
  • How experience shapes the wiring of the developing brain
  • How locusts transform their bodies, brains and behaviour in response to changes in population density

In the second part of the module we will explore how ecological pressures shape the evolution of animal behaviour and you will discover the genetic basis of behaviour that underpins its evolution. We will examine how factors such as limitation of resources, predation, parental care and animal cooperation work together to determine the behavioural characteristics of various animal species. You will see how considering animals as economic decision makers demonstrates 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 to conflicts that arise between males and females, parents and their offspring and siblings.

Learning

  • 21 hours of lectures
  • 10 hours of practical classes and workshops
  • 5 hours of tutorials 
  • 114 hours of guided independent study

Assessment

  • Practical report (30%)
  • Exam, 2 hours (70%)