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Evolutionary Biology

Instructor: Beatriz Vicoso, Sylvia Cremer

Teaching Assistant: Barbara Milutinovic, Pavel Payne


Target audience

The course is primarily aimed at students with a molecular biology background who are interested in molecular and organismal evolution, but students from other fields are welcome.



We will cover aspects of evolutionary biology, with a focus on evolutionary ecology and genomics. Each week, there will be an introductory lecture, followed by a paper discussion. 

  1. Adaptive and non-adaptive evolution (BV):
    • Deleterious and beneficial mutations
    • Origin of new genes and functions 
  2. Evolution of non-coding sequences (BV):
    • Genome size evolution and complexity
    • Transposable elements and non-coding RNAs 
  3. Speciation (BV) 

  4. Evolution of sociality and cooperation (SC) 

  5. Sexual selection and the evolution of dimorphic traits (SC)

  6. Host parasite interactions and symbioses (SC)



A basic knowledge of genetics will be useful.



Every Monday two students present a paper on a current topic taught in the previous lecture. All other students hand in a short essay on one of the papers.



• 20 minute presentations

• Slides allowed/encouraged



• 1-2 pages long

• should include

1) introduction/background,

2) summary of methods and results

3) critical assessment. For instance:

• Were the conclusions supported by the data?

• Were there flaws in the experimental design/analysis?

• Why is this an important result?



4 credit students

Final Grade

The final grade will be based on students' performance in oral paper presentations and grades of short written essays.





  Monday 8h45-10h00 Wednesday 8h45-10h00 Wednesday 14h30-15h20
Week 1 (Oct 5, 7) Lecture: Topic 1 Part 1 Lecture: Topic 1 Part 2 Recitation
Week 2 (Oct 12, 14) Presentations on topic 1 Lecture: Topic 2 Recitation
Week 3 (Oct 19, 21) Presentations on topic 2 Lecture: Topic 3 Recitation
Week 4 (Oct 26, 28) Holiday Lecture: Topic 4 Presentations on topic 3
Week 5 (Nov 2, 4) Presentations on topic 4 Lecture: Topic 5 Recitation
Week 6 (Nov 9, 11) Presentations on topic 5 Lecture: Topic 6 Recitation
Week 7 (Nov 16) Presentations on topic 6   Recitation

Papers and presentations

  Presentations Papers Further reading
Topic 1 part 1: Mutations Mutations review:
classic 1:
classic 2:
Topic 1 part 2: New genes New genes review:
Topic 2: Genome complexity and noncoding RNA Genome complexity and noncoding RNA
Topic 3: Speciation Speciation
book chapter:
Topic 4: Sociality and cooperation Sociality and cooperation
Topic 5: Sexual selection and dimorphic traits
Topic 6: Host parasite interactions and symbioses
      book: An Introduction to Behavioural Ecology by Nicholas B. Davies, John R. Krebs, and Stuart A. West. (available in the IST library)

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