- Code BIOL3131
- Unit Value 6 units
- Offered by Biology Teaching and Learning Centre
- ANU College ANU Joint Colleges of Science
- Course subject Biology
- Areas of interest Evolution and Ecology, Biology
This course has been adjusted for remote participation in Sem 1 2021 due to COVID-19 restrictions. On-campus activities will not be available.
You’ve probably watched nature documentaries and heard the narrator say that a behaviour ensures the survival of the species, or is designed to maintain nature’s balance. This is scientifically nonsense. But do you know why? Do you understand, for example, why the existence of worker ants and meerkats that help others breed is so hard to explain? The answers are found in behavioural ecology.
In this course, we aim to understand how natural selection generates animals that are adapted to both their physical and social environment. We emphasize how to test evolutionary hypotheses about animal behaviour and performance. Our lectures are in five modules that cover key topics: the trade-off between survival and reproduction, the principles of animal communication, the evolution of cooperation, evolutionary arms races, and the perils of sex. We consider such questions as: How do animals balance the need to get food yet avoid predators? Can animals lie? Why are males usually bad parents? Why don’t parents produce only daughters? Why are animals choosy when mating? Why do lions cooperate to hunt? We also emphasise the importance of behavioural ecology to conservation. If we know the predictors of fitness for individuals, we can better predict population growth and responses to environmental change. Behavioural ecology therefore provides the holistic understanding needed for practical conservation. ANU has a word-class behavioural ecology group, and we include our current research alongside that carried out worldwide. Our overall aim is to help you develop a logical approach to understand and test any question in evolutionary biology.
Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:
- Recognise when behaviour poses difficulties for accepted wisdom and theory.
- Think strategically on how to formulate and test adaptive hypotheses.
- Communicate problems and their solutions to both the general public and other scientists.
- Read the literature critically to assimilate views on new findings and present these in writing.
- Understand how knowledge about animal behaviour can translate into conservation action.
- Literature assignment (25) [LO 1,2,3,4,5]
- Practical exercises (30) [LO 1,2,3,4,5]
- Final examination (45) [LO 1,2,3,5]
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The expected workload will consist of up to 130 hours including:
- Face-to face component which may consist of 2-3 hours of lectures per week, 4 x 3-hour practical sessions throughout the semester.
- Approximately 82 hours of self directed study which will include preparation for lectures, presentations, group work reports and other assessment tasks.
Students are expected to actively participate and contribute towards discussions.
Not yet determined
Requisite and Incompatibility
Davies, N.B., Krebs, J.R. & West, S.A. 2012 An Introduction to Behavioural Ecology 4th Edition. Wiley-Blackwell
You are expected to have general knowledge of evolutionary processes.
Tuition fees are for the academic year indicated at the top of the page.
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- Unit value:
- 6 units
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