• Offered by Biology Teaching and Learning Centre
  • ANU College ANU Joint Colleges of Science
  • Course subject Biology
  • Academic career UGRD
  • Course convener
    • Prof Robert Magrath
  • Mode of delivery In Person
  • Co-taught Course
  • Offered in First Semester 2015
    See Future Offerings

The aim of evolutionary and behavioural ecology is to understand how an animal is adapted to its environment, such as how an animal’s behaviour contributes to its survival or reproduction. In this course we consider the outcomes of natural selection on animal behaviour and function, and discuss how we test adaptive hypotheses. We will do this by focussing on key issues in behavioural ecology. Our lectures are organised into four modules: trade-offs between costs and benefits for survival and reproduction, the principles of animal communication, the evolution of cooperation, and the biology of sex. We consider such questions as: How do individuals balance the need to get food yet avoid predators? How are communication signals designed and what do they mean? What stops animals lying? Why is cooperation potentially beneficial yet its evolution is difficult to understand? When is it advantageous to produce sons versus daughters? Why are individuals choosy when selecting a mate? Why do males care for young in some species but not others?  These areas cover research topics of interest to the strong behavioural ecology group at ANU, and we will include our current research as well as that carried out worldwide. The overall aim of the course is to develop a logical approach that can be applied to understanding and testing any question in evolutionary biology.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

The aim of the course is to develop a logical approach that can be applied to thinking about the process of adaptation. Although our focus will be on topics of interest to the strong behavioural ecology group at ANU, we will develop a logical approach that can be applied to understanding any question in biology. The generic skills we expect you to obtain in this course are the abilities to:

1. recognise when behaviour poses difficulties for accepted wisdom and theory
2. think strategically on how to formulate and test hypotheses to further investigate such anomalies
3. communicate problems and their solutions to both an intelligent public and a community of informed scientists
4. read the literature critically to assimilate views on new findings and present these views in writing.

Indicative Assessment

  • Essay and short-answer written exercises (60%; LO 1-4)
  • Final examination (40%; LO 1-3)

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3 hours of lectures per week plus 2-hour tutorial sessions as required.

Requisite and Incompatibility

To enrol in this course you must have completed BIOL2131 or BIOL2151or with permission of the convenor. You are not able to enrol in this course if you have completed BIOL6631.

Prescribed Texts

Davies, N.B., Krebs, J.R. & West, S.A. 2012 An Introduction to Behavioural Ecology 4th Edition. Wiley-Blackwell

Assumed Knowledge

BIOL3132 recommended for practical experience of research.




Tuition fees are for the academic year indicated at the top of the page.  

If you are a domestic graduate coursework or international student you will be required to pay tuition fees. Tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found at Fees.

Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
6 units

If you are an undergraduate student and have been offered a Commonwealth supported place, your fees are set by the Australian Government for each course. At ANU 1 EFTSL is 48 units (normally 8 x 6-unit courses). You can find your student contribution amount for each course at Fees.  Where there is a unit range displayed for this course, not all unit options below may be available.

6.00 0.12500
Domestic fee paying students
Year Fee
2015 $3096
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2015 $4146
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings, Dates and Class Summary Links

ANU utilises MyTimetable to enable students to view the timetable for their enrolled courses, browse, then self-allocate to small teaching activities / tutorials so they can better plan their time. Find out more on the Timetable webpage.

The list of offerings for future years is indicative only.
Class summaries, if available, can be accessed by clicking on the View link for the relevant class number.

First Semester

Class number Class start date Last day to enrol Census date Class end date Mode Of Delivery Class Summary
1785 16 Feb 2015 06 Mar 2015 31 Mar 2015 29 May 2015 In Person N/A

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