Honours Module: Animal Orientation and Migration (V. Braithwaite)
Honours Module: Evolution and the Brain (S. Healy)
Third year - Brain and Behaviour 3M (S. Healy & V. Braithwaite)
This module examines the processes and mechanisms that underlie animal behaviour. The neural mechanisms that mediate behaviour are considered at the level of interacting systems, such as those involved in perception, motor control and memory.
1) Introduction: Why should we consider the brain and behaviour together? By studying how the nervous system controls animal behaviour, we gain a better understanding of the mechanisms that produce behaviour.
2) Evolution of the brain: Different phyla have nervous systems with radically different structure. Comparative studies are used to illustrate the evolution of the brain and its organisation.
3) Mechanisms of vision, olfactory systems and motor systems: General and specific examples of each are considered to demonstrate the behavioural demands on sensory inputs and motor outputs and the neural underpinnings that coordinate the input and output.
4) Development: Using specific examples to investigate how brain and behaviour change together through postnatal development.
5) Learning and memory: The ways in which organisms act upon, and react to, different kinds of experience are considered in a range of animal species, including humans.
Third year - Behavioural Ecology 3M (S. Healy)
The course provides an introduction to behavioural ecology, exploring the relationship between animal behaviour, ecology, population biology and evolution. It is illustrated with examples from diverse animal species and ecological systems. Students will gain experience of the practical, quantitative and statistical skills required for the study of behavioural ecology.
(1) Introduction. What is behavioural ecology? How do behavioural ecologists see the world? Behaviour involved in maximising survival and reproductive fitness. Optimality. Levels of selection.
(2) Finding a mate. Mating systems and conflicts of interest during reproduction. Sexual selection. Altruistic behaviour, inclusive fitness and kin selection. Co-operative breeding in birds. Eusocial behaviour in insects.
(3) Finding food. Optimality and economic decisions. Currencies and constraints in foraging behaviour. Simple models of prey choice, patch exploitation and forager distribution. Digestive constraints.
(4) Staying alive. Living in groups - finding food and avoiding predation. Predator-Prey interactions - avoiding detection, attack and capture. Arms races in host-parasite interactions. Life histories and reproductive decision-making. A role for behavioural ecology in conservation.
Second year - Animal Biology 2h (V. Braithwaite)
The Animal Biology course takes, as a central theme, the functional and behavioural adaptations which underlie the diversity of life. It also aims to provide an introduction to all the main animal groups, and to describe what is known of the evolutionary links between them.
The first section introduces the invertebrate phyla, and traces the evolution of body plans from sea anemones to the ancestors of vertebrates. We examine theories for the evolution of multicellular life, and the changing views on the evolutionary relationships of the major groups.
The next section looks at the ecology and behaviour of these invertebrate groups in marine environments. Life cycles, feeding and locomotion are central topics, with special reference to adaptations for pelagic life, for the sea bed, and for the intertidal zone.
The third section introduces vertebrates, with a brief discussion of the evolutionary pathways leading to the major extant groups. We then discuss the mammals in depth as an example of a single taxon of animals with a unifying general organisation, but with great variation in form and function within the mammalian theme. We discuss several aspects of mammalian biology, particularly feeding, locomotion and reproduction.
Lastly, there is a study of the interspecific associations between animals, with particular emphasis on the ecology and adaptation of parasitic species.
Throughout the lectures we bring in behaviour and ecology as well as morphology and phylogeny. Laboratory work and films are used to illustrate the lectures and to introduce students to a practical study of diversity and adaptive radiation.
Second year - Marine Biology Fieldcourse (V. Braithwaite & S. Healy)
A week long residential field course at