ZOOL40040 Molecular Phylogenetics - Powers and Pitfalls

Academic Year 2021/2022

Dobzhansky (1973) argued that 'Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.' However, evolution only makes sense in light of a robust and resolved phylogenetic tree. Originally phylogenies were constructed using morphological data, but now, in the post-genomic era, the majority of phylogenies are created using molecular data. 'Molecular phylogenetics' is an extremely powerful tool that is increasingly used in the fields of molecular zoology, systematics, biogeography, comparative genomics, conservation genetics, virology, epidemiology, molecular evolution, paleontology and forensics. This module focuses on the main philosophies and methods used in molecular phylogenetic analyses. It explores the pros and cons of both morphological and molecular phylogenetic techniques. It describes the power of these methods by showing how mammalian evolutionary history has been drastically rewritten in light of molecular phylogenetic studies.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

On completion of this module students should be able to:
- Appreciate the complexities associated with constructing Molecular Phylogenies.
- Interpret and critically evaluate the literature within the field.
- Understand the methodogies in the construction of both morphological and molecular phylogenies.
- Review critically unseen research material and summarise the key methods and findings.
- Have an appreciation of mammalian evolutionary history and molecular phylogenetics contribution to it.

Indicative Module Content:

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours


Specified Learning Activities


Autonomous Student Learning




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

This is an advanced module and requires a detailed knowledge of Genetics and Molecular Biology. Students should have taken at least two modules at Level 3 in related disciplines.

Learning Recommendations:

The Evolutionary Biology Module (ZOOL 30030) is highly recommended.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade
Examination: Terminal examination (2 hours) 2 hour End of Trimester Exam No Graded No


Continuous Assessment: Project Varies over the Trimester n/a Graded No


Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Spring Yes - 2 Hour
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

The project will be discussed in class. Tutors will discuss project and methodology pre-final task. Student can receive individual feedback, post assessment.

Phylogenetic Trees Made Easy- A how to manual (fifth edition)
Barry G. Hall
Name Role
Dr Graham Hughes Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Timetabling information is displayed only for guidance purposes, relates to the current Academic Year only and is subject to change.
Lecture Offering 1 Week(s) - 1, 2, 3, 4 Mon 11:00 - 11:50
Lecture Offering 1 Week(s) - 1, 2, 3, 4 Tues 14:00 - 14:50
Lecture Offering 1 Week(s) - 1, 2, 3, 4 Wed 12:00 - 12:50