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Behavioural Ecology - BIO00062I

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  • Department: Biology
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. Dan Franks
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: I
  • Academic year of delivery: 2024-25
    • See module specification for other years: 2023-24

Module summary

Behavioural Ecology combines evolution, ecology and animal behaviour to explain the key decisions in an animal’s life – when to mate and with whom, when and where to forage, whether to raise young or abandon them, whether to fight or flee, whether to cheat or cooperate. This module examines key theoretical ideas and the experimental and comparative data that test those ideas, to demonstrate how applying evolutionary thinking to animals functioning under environmental constraints leads to accurate prediction of behavioural outcomes. Behavioural ecology thus enables us to understand the biological basis of both simple and complex behaviours, and indeed of human nature itself.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 2 2024-25

Module aims

This module introduces key concepts of behavioural ecology to explain the causes and consequences of decisions made throughout an animal’s life. The module covers individual and social decisions in the contexts of foraging, avoiding predation, mating, raising young, resolving conflicts and cooperating. This module covers both the direct function and cause of behaviours, and also their evolutionary consequences on survival and reproductive potential, including consequences mediated via sexual selection and kin selection. These concepts are illustrated with examples from animal behaviour in the wild and in controlled experiments, and by simple mathematical models. The module demonstrates the relationship between behavioural ecology theory and the empirical observations and experiments that test theoretical predictions. The module material is supported by practicals and workshops to build experimental design, problem-solving and data interpretation skills.

Module learning outcomes

Students who successfully complete this module will be able to:

Understand and describe key concepts within behavioural ecology.

Describe and interpret the factors feeding into the decisions animals make about behavioural strategies.

Describe and interpret the evolutionary consequences of the behaviours in which animals engage

Demonstrate the interrelations between different areas of behavioural ecology and their impact on each other.

Implement experimental design, data interpretation and data analysis.

Use simple mathematical models to solve problems.


Task Length % of module mark
Open Examination: Multiple choice questions online
Online Exam
6 hours 100

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
Open Examination: Multiple choice questions online
Online Exam
6 hours 100

Module feedback

Marks for all summative assessments will be made available to you and your supervisor via e:vision. Feedback will be either individual or cohort-level, depending on the assessment format. You should take the opportunity to discuss your marks and feedback with your supervisor.

For exam-style summative assessment, model answers will be provided for all questions along with cohort-level feedback indicating how students answered questions in general. Marks achieved per question will be added to your script.

For coursework assessments (eg. reports or essays) you will receive individual feedback on your work. This will usually be in the form of a feedback sheet that will include suggestions for further improvement.

During the teaching of the module you will receive formative feedback that may be at a whole class or individual level. Such feedback may include: model answers and discussion of workshop questions, summaries of performance in practicals, VLE-based quizzes, individual spoken comments during workshops, individual written comments on formative work.

Indicative reading

These are available through the VLE module site.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.