Module code: NS3016

Module co-ordinator: Dr Sarah Gretton

Evolution by natural selection is the fundamental theorem of the biosciences, and it is a concept which is increasingly applied to other areas including computing, economics and statistics. In this module you will study the fundamental concept of evolution by selective adaptation and then analyse in-depth examples of evolutionary change in planets and humans.

Topics covered

  • Descent with modification
  • Genetic Variation
  • Variation through mutation
  • Mutation rates
  • Variation through sexual and lateral gene transfer
  • Natural selection
  • Variation through genetically complex traits
  • Changes that result in novelty
  • Fossil preservation
  • Major evolutionary events
  • Megaevolution/macroevolution/microevolution in the fossil record
  • Finite populations
  • Maintenance of variation
  • Quantitative genetics
  • Genetic algorithms
  • The interaction between selection and other forces
  • Human evolution
  • DNA sequencing
  • Human and Neanderthal DNA sequence comparison
  • Fossil DNA


  • 5 one-hour workshops + 4 two-hour workshops
  • 6 lectures (1-2 hour)
  • 4 two-hour tutorials


  • Exam (35%)
  • Continual assessment (65%) - including 4 sets of core learning exercises, written textbook section with illustrations, policy briefing document and podcast