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Evolutionary Biology - Patterns and Processes, BIOR89

15 credits

Butterfly in a field of lavender. Photo.

Evolution affects biology at all levels – from genes to ecosystems. You will learn to analyse and understand the evolutionary processes that give rise to novelty, adaptation and diversity. In doing so you will learn how to unravel the evolutionary history of biological systems. The course is the first course on the MSc programme in Evolutionary Biology.

Understanding evolution requires the integration of knowledge across genomics, molecular and cell biology, development and ecology. Our teaching promotes active, inquiry-based learning that takes advantage of our Department’s world-leading research on the evolutionary biology of microbes, plants and animals. The course is structured around four key problem agendas in evolutionary biology. 

Unravelling the history of life

What actually happened to life during its 3.5 billion years of evolution and how do we know this? This module will explain and exemplify how scientists unravel evolutionary patterns – from the biogeography of species to the origin of new phyla. Emphasis is placed on the challenges and opportunities of reconstructing the history of life, and on determining phylogenetic relatedness using genomic and other sources of data. A field trip to fossil sites in Skåne will put the fossil record into perspective, and what it can reveal about evolution.

Adaptation and Natural Selection

How does natural selection work and how does selection bring about adaptations? This module will explain how fitness differences cause adaptive change, maintain polymorphism, and contribute to adaptive differences between individuals, populations and species. Genetic and phenotypic approaches are introduced that conceptualize, document and quantify selection and its outcome. The module also explains the theories of sexual selection and kin selection, and how they explain morphological and behavioural diversity. The concept of levels of selection and the extent to which genomes and social groups can exhibit adaptations will be examined. 

The genetic and developmental basis of evolutionary change

How do novel phenotypes, like fermentation, feathers and flowers evolve? What determines adaptive potential in the short and long term, and can organisms actually get better at evolving? This module will focus on the genetic and developmental basis of adaptive change and evolutionary novelty. The emphasis is on how studies of genomes and development help to understand how complex phenotypes arise and evolve. The module also discusses the ability to evolve (‘evolvability’), and the extent to which this ability also evolves. 

Speciation and Diversification

How do species form? Why are there so many and diverse insects while other groups appear locked in evolutionary stasis? This module focuses on how scientists unravel the processes that bring about new species. Different models and modes of speciation are explained, and the relationship between speciation and natural selection is examined. The module also shows how to disentangle the mechanisms of reproductive isolation, and the conditions that promote adaptive radiation. 


Lotta Persmark, Study advisor, biology and bioinformatics

Telephone: +46 46 222 37 28
EmailLotta [dot] Persmark [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se (Lotta[dot]Persmark[at]biol[dot]lu[dot]se)