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Synopses of lectures and practicals

Michaelmas Term
Behaviour and Ecology
Brains and Behaviour

Lent Term
Insect Biology
Vertebrate Evolutionary Biology

Easter Term
Evolutionary Principles

 

Michaelmas Term

Behaviour and Ecology


Prof Rebecca Kilner

How does behaviour enable individuals to adapt to an ever-changing physical and biological environment? We show how predictions can be derived from evolutionary theory and tested by comparative studies and experiments. Ecological factors provide the stage on which behaviour is played and natural selection favours those behavioural and developmental strategies which maximise an individual’s chances of survival and reproduction.

• How do fitness trade-offs influence: reproductive strategies and parental care; group-living and competition for scarce resources?

• How does adaptive behaviour develop and what determines the relative contribution of genes, learning and the wider environment?

Brains and Behaviour

Dr Marta Zlatic
Dr Berthold Hedwig

In order to understand the neural control of complex and adaptive behaviour we need to clarify the ways in which animal brains function, how they operate in the detection and processing of sensory information and how sensory and motor functions are finally integrated at the level of neurons and networks to generate behaviour.

The lectures will explore:

  • The cellular basis of neural processing, olfactory, visual, auditory and somatosensory pathways in insects, and decision making and memory circuits.
  • How bats and owls hunt in the dark using sound, the neural basis for motor pattern generation and the interactions between moths and bats.

The practicals will investigate motor mechanisms in insects and the electric sense of fish.

 

Lent Term

Insect Biology

Dr William Foster
Dr Walter Federle

Insects are the most diverse and successful group of animals on Earth.  We will seek to explain the insects’ success by studying their adaptations to an enormous diversity of life styles, looking at their physiology, ecology and evolution.

The lectures and practical classes will explore

  • insect cuticle, respiration, water balance, locomotion, feeding and insect-plant relationships

insect parasitoids, reproductive behaviour and sexual selection, the evolution of insect societies, and insect biodiversity and conservation.

Vertebrate Evolutionary Biology

Dr Jason Head
Dr Rob Asher

Vertebrates are among the most complex and morphologically diverse animals. In this section, we will examine developmental, fossil, and modern anatomical data in order to understand the evolution of tissue systems during major transitions in vertebrate history. These events include the evolution of paired appendages and jaws, the emergence onto land from water, and the origins of endothermy.

The section is divided into two parts:

  • Vertebrate origins, systematics, and development.
  • Amniote evolution and diversity.

Both parts will examine the evolution of embryological growth, skeletal tissues, respiratory and circulatory systems, metabolism, and sensory systems in vertebrates. The lectures in both parts of the course are backed up by practical classes designed to teach elements of vertebrate structure, function and diversity. 

 

Easter Term

Evolutionary Principles

Prof Rufus Johnstone
Dr Nick Mundy

We examine the fundamental processes and patterns that underlie all of evolution. We proceed from genetic variation at single loci through to large scale patterns of phenotypic evolution and adaptation.

In two lecture/practical series we explore:

  • evolutionary models of genotypes and phenotypes
  • evolutionary inferences using phylogenetic trees