Evolution & Behaviour

Complementary Options

Some overlap with plants in Physiology of Organisms

In Short

Evolution and Behavior (E&B) has one of the broadest curriculum’s. You’ll have an introduction to the nature of Evolution, Natural Selection, Population Genetics, Speciation etc. – all topics it would be easy to miss-understand without this course. You’ll also look in depth at certain issues such as plant evolution, Evo-Devo and human evolution. The human evolution course sits on the boundary between science and behaviour, with a latter chunk of the course dedicated to behaviour taught entirely via experimental evidence.

 The course starts of well organised, with good quality lectures and handouts. This tends to deteriorate through the year as topics become fragmented, and lecturers less engaging. However the appeal of E&B comes from the huge range of organisms studied – think of a yearlong Attenborough documentary! There’s a fairly large, if poorly integrated section on plants, and it is possible to do the course despite a hatred of Behaviour, but you will have to answer an essay on it.

Supervisions have taken place with a number of different supervisors sequentially during the year, and quality has been rocky compared to other 1a options. It is especially important to nail essay writing skills for this course: The exam requires five 35minute essays, and despite the time limit, these must demonstrate a coherent argument for an important idea. Young naturalists will be able to use any organisms they love to evidence the main points of this course.


These are weekly, and every other practical is assessed. You are expected to complete the practical on the day, although there is no time limit, so they tend to drag on. Marking is also quite harsh, but arbitrary with only A, B & C grades. These practicals aren’t enormously fun compared to e.g. PoO, but they demonstrate principles from the lectures well – including measuring (fake) homonin skulls, producing phylogenies etc.