• Offered by Biology Teaching and Learning Centre
  • ANU College ANU Joint Colleges of Science
  • Course subject Biology
  • Areas of interest Evolution and Ecology, Biology
  • Academic career UGRD
  • Course convener
    • Prof Michael Jennions
    • Prof Naomi Langmore
  • Mode of delivery In Person
  • Co-taught Course
  • Offered in First Semester 2022
    See Future Offerings

See https://www.anu.edu.au/covid-19-advice. In Sem 1 2022, this course is delivered on campus with adjustments for remote participants.

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.

Learning Outcomes

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

  1. Recognise when behaviour poses difficulties for accepted wisdom and theory.
  2. Think strategically on how to formulate and test adaptive hypotheses.
  3. Communicate problems and their solutions to both the general public and other scientists.
  4. Read the literature critically to assimilate views on new findings and present these in writing.
  5. Understand how knowledge about animal behaviour can translate into conservation action.

Indicative Assessment

  1. Literature assignment (25) [LO 1,2,3,4,5]
  2. Practical exercises (30) [LO 1,2,3,4,5]
  3. Final examination (45) [LO 1,2,3,5]

The ANU uses Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. While the use of Turnitin is not mandatory, the ANU highly recommends Turnitin is used by both teaching staff and students. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website.


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.

Inherent Requirements

Not yet determined

Requisite and Incompatibility

To enrol in this course you must have successfully completed BIOL1003 and 18 units of 2000 or 3000 level BIOL or BIAN courses or with the permission of the course convener. Incompatible with BIOL6631.

Prescribed Texts

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

Assumed Knowledge

You are expected to have general knowledge of evolutionary processes.


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

Commonwealth Support (CSP) Students
If you 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). More information about your student contribution amount for each course at Fees

Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
6 units

If you are a domestic graduate coursework student with a Domestic Tuition Fee (DTF) place or international student you will be required to pay course tuition fees (see below). Course tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found 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
2022 $4200
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2022 $6000
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
3931 21 Feb 2022 28 Feb 2022 31 Mar 2022 27 May 2022 In Person View

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