ZOOL30030 Evolutionary Biology

Academic Year 2024/2025

Evolution is the fundamental process that underlies all biological systems. Understanding the processes of micro and macroevolutionary change is essential to any working biologist, and have generated great popular interest and controversy over the centuries. This module will provide an introduction to evolutionary biology, patterns, processes and scientific background by use of real research examples (evolutionary ecology, palaeontology, systematics). A context to the study of evolution, from Darwin to Dawkins is also presented. Since evolution occurs only as a result of genetic change, the understanding of gene flow in populations is also central to the evolutionary process. The effect of selection, mutation and population size on population genetic structure will be examined. Morphological selection and adaptation, homology and homoplasy, cladistics and phenetics, phylogeny reconstruction amongst higher taxa, tree shape and the influence of developmental biology on our understanding of evolutionary mechanisms are also covered in this module.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

On completion of this module students should be able to:
- Appreciate the centrality of evolution to all biology;
- Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the key processes and mechanisms of micro and macroevolution;
- Explain the principles of classification and phylogeny;
- Grasp the historical context of evolutionary theory;
- Explain how modern methods are used to reconstruct phylogenetic trees;
- Appreciate the importance of population genetic structure in evolutionary processes;
- Interpret the effect of population size, mutation, selection, and migration on population allele and genotype frequencies;
- Summarise the concept of the neutral and nearly-neutral theory of molecular evolution and explain how it relates to macroevolutionary processes;
- Explain to the lay-person key concepts in evolutionary biology.

Indicative Module Content:

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours


Seminar (or Webinar)


Autonomous Student Learning




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
active/task-based learning;
peer and group work;
critical writing;
case-based learning.
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations
Learning Recommendations:

GENE 20020

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade

Not yet recorded.

Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Spring No
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment
• Group/class feedback, post-assessment
• Online automated feedback
• Self-assessment activities

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

The students will receive online feedback for each MCQ question. Graded essay questions will be returned to the students and group feedback will be given post assessment.

Evolution, Making Sense of Life
Carl Zimmer & Douglas J. Emlen
Name Role
Dr John Finarelli Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Dr Graham Hughes Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Darrin Hulsey Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Dr Darrin Hulsey Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Dr Julia Jones Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Dr Jonathan Yearsley Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Bawan Amin Tutor
Mr Srivats Rajagopal Chari Tutor
Ms Kimberly Conteddu Tutor
Dr Zixia Huang Tutor
Ms Jodie Murphy Tutor
Dr Megan Power Tutor
Miss Sarahjane Power Tutor
Mr Matthew Quinn Tutor