Course Name: Evolutionary Biology
Pre-requisite: Introduction to Life Sciences, (Molecular) Genetics, Molecular Biology
Lecture Time: 20 weeks, 1 session/week, 2 hours/session
Prof. De-Xing Zhang, Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences
Prof. Zhong-He Zhou, Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Chinese Academy of Sciences
Prof. Yong Zhang, Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences
Evolution is a unifying theory for all disciplines of biology. This course introduces fundamentals of biological evolution, from the origin of life to the evolution of biological diversity, from the basic patterns of molecular evolution to social and behavioral evolution, with an emphasis on the processes and primary mechanisms responsible for evolutionary changes of living organisms over time. This course is designed for undergraduate students majoring Biology, and is also one of the major courses for students from other disciplines interested in biology. It is expected that at the end of the course students will have a thorough understanding of basic evolutionary theory, a good knowledge on evolutionary patterns deciphered from the molecular level to the fossil record, and be able to apply critically evolutionary principles to explain human evolution and to answer popular questions on evolution.
Topics and Schedule
1.1 What is evolution?
1.2 The concepts of microevolution and macroevolution
1.3 Darwin’s theory of evolution
1.4 The modern synthesis
1.5 Current evolutionary theory
1.6 How to study biological evolution?
1.7 How to learn evolutionary biology?
2.1 Origin and types of genetic variations
2.2. Germline mutation
2.3. Somatic and epigenetic mutation
3.1 The Earth, fossils and geological time table
3.2 The emergence of life and early evolution
3.3 The Cambrian explosion and the substitution of Paleozoic ecosystem
3.4 The formation of terrestrial ecosystem and the early evolution of vertebrates
3.5 Biota in the Dinosaur era and the continental transformation
3.6 Evolution of mammals in the Cenozoic and the emergence of human
4.1 The basic patterns of biological evolution
4.2 Methods to study patterns of evolution
4.3 Applications of phylogenetic theory and methods
5.1 Protein evolution
5.2 Evolution of regulatory sequences
5.3 The origin of new genes
5.4 The loss of old genes
5.5 Genome duplication
6.1 The category of variations
6.2 The major forces driving evolution
6.3 Population genetic basis of evolution
6.4 Variation in natural populations
6.5 Variation among populations and population differentiation
6.6 Evolution beyond variation in gene frequency
7.1 Various random forces in evolution
7.2 Theory of random genetic drift
7.3 Coalescent theory and its application
7.4 The neutral theory of molecular evolution
7.5 Inference of demographic history and phylogeography
8.1 Why does milk do bad to some people?
8.2 The nature of adaptations
8.3 The nature of natural selection
8.4 Levels of selection
9.1 Fitness and natural selection
9.2 Types of selection and acting modes
9.3 Factors that affect the effectiveness of natural selection
9.4 Interaction of natural selection and other forces
9.5 The limit of natural selection
10.1 Phenotypic traits and variation
10.2 Genetic basis of Phenotypic variation
10.3 Evolution of quantitative traits
10.4 Methods for studying quantitative traits
11.1 Concept of life history
11.2 Inclusive fitness and selection
11.3 Life history variants and evolution
12.1 Reproductive strategies: Sxeual and asexual reproduction
12.2 Adaptation of selfing and outcrossing
12.3 Evolution of mating systems
12.4 Sexual selection and its evolutionary implications
13.1 What are species?
13.2 The diverse species definitions and species concepts
13.3 Gene flow and reproductive isolation
13.4 The genetic basis of reproductive isolation
14.1 Speciation and evolutionary implications
14.2 Modes of speciation
14.3 Mechanisms of speciation
14.4 Rates of speciation and evolutionary consequences
15.1 Developmental constraints
15.2 Evolutionary trap and Dollo’s law
15.3 Gradualism and saltation
15.4 Evolution of a novel complex trait
15.5 How to interpret convergent evolution?
16.1 Hox genes and the reunification of evolution and development
16.2 Rethinking homologies and the developmental principle in evolution
16.3 Genetic toolkit and the evolution of morphological structures
16.4 Modularity and evolution
16.5 Redundancy and tinkering in evolution
17.1 The significance of fossil record to evolutionary studies
17.2 Punctuated equilibria
17.3 Origin of tetrapods
17.4 Origin and the early evolution of birds
17.5 Origin and the early evolution of mammals
17.6 The Hominin fossil record and the evolutionary history of human
18.1 History and basic concepts
18.2 Paleobiogeogrphy: dispersal and vicariance
18.3 The breakdown of Gondwana and Paleobiogeogrphy
18.5 Paleobiogeogrphy and biodiversity in islands and continents
19.1 Concepts and definitions
19.2 Biological radiations in geological past
19.3 Five mass extinctions
19.4 Adaptive radiation
19.5 Factors influencing biodiversity
20.1 Interactions among species
20.2 Coevolution: The universal consequence of evolution
20.3 Overview and summary
A weekly homework will be given during the 20 weeks of the class, the homework will be graded and their scores will count for 20% of the total. Attendance counts for 10%. At the end of the class will be followed by a final examination, which will count for 70%.
Futuyma DJ (2013) Evolution. 3rd Edition. Sinauer Associates.
 Darwin C (1859) On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. 1st ed. John Murray.
 Cowen R (2013) History of Life. 5th Edition. Wiley-Blackwell.
 Arthur W (2010) Evolution: A Developmental Approach. Wiley-Blackwell.
 Gould SJ (1992) Ever Since Darwin: Reflections in Natural History. W. W. Norton & Company.
 Mayr E (2001) What Evolution Is? BasicBooks.
 Carroll SB (2005) Endless Forms Most Beautiful: The New Science of Evo Devo. Norton.
 Ridley M (2004) Evolution. 3rd Edition. Blackwell Science Ltd.
 Charlesworth B, Charlesworth D (2003) Evolution: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press.
 de Panafieu J-B, Gries P (2007) Evolution in Action: Natural History through Spectacular Skeletons. Thames & Hudson.
 Coyne JA (2010) Why Evolution Is True? Penguin Books.
 Zimmer C (2006) Evolution: The Triumph of an Idea. Harper Perennial.