Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Academic Year
Semester 1
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Lecture 2 x 1 hour lectures per week
Practical 3 x 4 hour practicals during semester
Seminars / Tutorials 3 x 1 hour seminars during semester


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment Laboratory report 1.  10%
Semester Assessment Laboratory report 2.  10%
Semester Assessment Laboratory report 3.  20%
Semester Exam 2 Hours   60%
Supplementary Assessment Students must take elements of assessment equivalent to those that led to failure of the module.  40%
Supplementary Exam 2 Hours   Students must take elements of assessment equivalent to those that led to failure of the module.  60%

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

1. Describe Tinbergen'r four questions in animal behaviour research

2. Discuss core concepts in animal behaviour, and supporting empirical evidence for them

3. Critically evaluate primary scientific literature

4. Apply scientific methods to the study of animal behaviour

5. Design and test hypotheses relating to animal behaviour

Brief description

This module considers how animals behave within their natural environment, and the theories that explain why they behave in these ways. It takes a comparative approach across a broad range of animal taxa, and considers animal behaviour from the points of view of its causation, function, evolution and development.


Introductory lectures will consider the pioneering work of Tinbergen and other early ethologists, and introduce their scientific approach to the study of animal behaviour including careful, objective observation. The four questions devised by Tinbergen as a framework for the study of animal behaviour; those of its function, causation, development, and evolution will be considered, as will their inter-relationship, and current interpretation.

Building on these scientific principles, examples will be developed illustrating the function, evolution, development and causation of behaviour. These will be drawn across a wide variety of animal species (representing both invertebrates and vertebrates). Examples will likely include coverage of predator - prey interactions and evolutionary arms races; foraging and economic decision making; animal conflict and assessment; mating systems and tactics; natural and sexual selection; communication; social behaviour. Students will be encouraged to debate developing topics in ethological research. In all cases, detail of the scientific method behind key discoveries will be discussed.

Practical classes will provide students with the opportunity to objectively observe animal behaviour, and design and test hypotheses in the field and laboratory. Students will have the opportunity to present their findings through a range of formats.

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number Students will collect behavioural data in practical classes and will be required to run statistical tests and analyses on that data. They will gain skills in carrying out these methods using standard statistical packages, and interpreting the results. Such skills are essential for a wide variety of careers.
Communication Communication skills will be developed through a range of exercises that will include elements of group discussion, presentation, and/or scientific writing (incorporating a variety of styles). The assessed coursework for each practical session will include communication of scientific data, and the format for this communication will vary across practicals. These will be assessed, and feedback will be provided. Such skills are essential for a wide variety of careers.
Improving own Learning and Performance Not a significant component of this module, although formative comments on practical reports will be provided.
Information Technology Data collected in practical classes will need to be handled and prepared using standard spreadsheet and graph plotting software. The importance of well thought out and carefully presented display elements in practical reports will be emphasised. Such skills are essential for a wide variety of careers.
Personal Development and Career planning Not an assessed component of this module, although the module itself provides a firm grounding for a career in animal behaviour, zoology, or related fields.
Problem solving Not a significant component of this module, although students will need to employ problem-solving skills in practical sessions and subsequent analyses.
Research skills Students will work in groups for each practical exercise and will take responsibility for formulating their hypotheses based on theory, and deciding how to conduct specific aspects of scheduled experiments to test these. They will gain skills in behavioural experimentation, and will also collate and analyse the data that they collect as part of assessed coursework for this module (below). Such skills are essential for a career in biology and related fields.
Subject Specific Skills Behavioural observation & experimentation in varied settings.
Team work Students will work in teams to decide on aspects of experimental design in practical classes, and to carry out data collection and analysis. They will be given the opportunity to further develop teamwork skills in tutorial sessions where ethological topics will be discussed. Feedback will be provided on teamworking skills during practical sessions (via peer assessment), and the outcomes of group work will be assessed in practical reports. Such skills are essential for a wide variety of careers.


This module is at CQFW Level 5