BIOU6BE: Behavioural Ecology

CO-ORDINATOR: Dr Andre Gilburn



Module Description

To provide students with an understanding of the key processes driving the evolution of animal behaviour.

Intended Learning Outcomes

By the end of this module students should be able to:

  • Use web of science to source research at the cutting edge of behavioural ecology
  • Critically assess the relative importance of the key hypotheses proposed to be driving the evolution of behaviour in animals.
  • Use computer simulations to interpret how predators and prey affect each other and how sex limited traits can evolve in males and how they can increase predation rates.
  • Critically appraise the importance of a paper published recently in a behavioural ecology journal and write an informal article suitable for a layperson to understand about the article.
  • Design a basic experiment testing the alternative predictions of hypotheses proposed to explain the evolution of some behaviours seen in animals.

Learning and Teaching Activities

  • 24 Lectures
  • An Introductory session
  • A news and views article training session
  • An exam preparation training session
  • 3 practical sessions

Core Learning Outcomes

  • Specific knowledge and understanding of current developments in the subject.
  • An advanced level of understanding in the following key areas of behavioural ecology: sexual selection, sexual conflict and the evolution of mating systems; life history evolution; foraging strategies; social behaviour (living in groups, territoriality, cooperation).
  • An understanding of how predation can influence the evolution of sexually selected traits and affect population fitness.
  • The ability to use computer models using Simbio software to interpret behavioural data and illustrate theory.
  • An understanding of how differences in foraging behaviour between the sexes can drive the evolution of sexual dimorphism.
  • The ability to read and understand a recent paper in behavioural ecology to a sufficient degree to write a news and views article on it suitable for an educated lay person.
  • Generic skills (e.g. Information skills/oral and written communication skills/numeracy/team working/personal organisational skills).
  • Improved essay writing skills.
  • Improved information skills acquired through access and interpreting relevant literature.
  • Improved numeracy skills acquired during computer practicals.
  • Improved ability to graph scientific data and create and manage Excel spreadsheets.
  • Cognitive: (e.g. analytical/problem-solving/interpretative/critical reasoning).
  • The ability to use computer-based packages to understand and interpret behavioural data.


  • Three practical write ups (25%)
  • News and Views Article (25%)
  • Final examination (50%)
Coursework 50%
Examination 50%
Practical 0%
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