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2018/19 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

BLGY2223 Organismal Evolution

10 creditsClass Size: 184

Module manager: Dr Andrew Peel

Taught: Semester 2 (Jan to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2018/19

Module replaces

BLGY2113 Animal Evolution

This module is approved as a discovery module

Module summary

This module aims to provide students with an up-to-date understanding of how the great diversity of animal species found on earth today evolved over the course of more than 550 million years. The module will examine both microevolutionary (e.g. speciation) and macroevolutionary (e.g. changes in body plans) processes. The module will examine what we now know about animal evolution as a result of modern molecular techniques and resources, and how new data have confirmed or contradicted older ideas that were based on comparisons of animal morphology and analysis of the fossil record. The module will identify areas where much is still left to be discovered regarding the process of evolution, and make students aware of the immense rate at which new discoveries are being made thanks to modern techniques. The module will give students experience in some approaches to studying evolution through the use of computer-based practicals. The module requires students to write scientific-paper style reports, thus developing a key scientific skill.


- This module encourages the development of research skills and critical thinking.
- Students will use computers to handle and analyse data in order to construct trees of animal relationships using cladistics and phenetic techniques, and to design and analyse experiments exploring the processes of natural and sexual selection.
- Students will also develop their skills in the preparation of scientific-paper style reports.

Learning outcomes
On the completion of this module, students should be able to:
- make sense of micro- and macro- evolutionary processes, and relate these to changes at the genetic level;
- describe the biotic and abiotic factors promoting adaptive change and speciation;
- explain why evolutionary trees are of fundamental importance to dissecting these processes, as well as how and why such trees are used and constructed;
- describe developmental features of various multicellular organisms, and give their current evolutionary interpretation;
- provide examples of major macroevolutionary changes in known clades, understand how these changes came about, and the effect they had;
- place these examples in the context of evolution in general, in order to form an understanding of the processes by which organisms have radiated across the planet.

Skills outcomes
- Use of computers (A-life software; software for analysis of phylogenetic relationships eg for constructing gene trees)
- Group work for write-up.


- The Phanerozoic: what happened;
- The Cambrian Explosion;
- The New Phylogeny;
- Extinction and punctuated equilibrium;
- Animal Origins: The evolution of multicellularity;
- The axis-formers: The origin and evolution of bilaterial symmetry;
- Major radiations: invertebrates;
- Major radiations: vertebrates;
- Adaptation: Natural and Sexual Selection;
- Speciation;
- History of evolutionary thought.

Teaching methods

Due to COVID-19, teaching and assessment activities are being kept under review - see module enrolment pages for information

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours77.00
Total Contact hours23.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)100.00

Private study

Students should note that the following information is for guidance only. The actual time required for the various elements will vary between students.
- 3 hours of self-study per lecture (45 hours)
- 10 hours: coursework assessment
- 22 hours: examination and preparation.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

- Student attendance at lectures and practicals will be monitored in line with standard faculty practice.
- Completion of coursework and exam.
- Engagement with VLE resources.

Methods of assessment

Due to COVID-19, teaching and assessment activities are being kept under review - see module enrolment pages for information

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Practical Report1 summative report based on one of the two computer practicals, plus a computer lab notebook record covering both practicals20.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)20.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Exam typeExam duration% of formal assessment
Standard exam (closed essays, MCQs etc)2 hr 00 mins80.00
Total percentage (Assessment Exams)80.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 18/04/2018


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