Module Identifier BS25420  
Academic Year 2006/2007  
Co-ordinator Dr Rupert C Marshall  
Semester Semester 2  
Pre-Requisite BS23520  
Course delivery Lecture   26 x 1h lectures  
  Practical   4 x 3 hour practical sessions (practical 1 takes 2 sessions)  
Assessment TypeAssessment Length/DetailsProportion
Semester Exam3 Hours written exam  70%
Semester Assessment Practical write up  30%
Supplementary Exam3 Hours written exam  70%
Supplementary Assessment Resubmission of failed coursework or alternative.  30%

Learning outcomes

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


The field of Behavioural Ecology is devoted to understanding patterns of animal behaviour in an evolutionary context, focusing on developing understanding of the way in which behaviour contributes to survival and reproductive success. This module provides a comprehensive introduction to the study of Behavioural Ecology, which has been a significant mode of animal behaviour research over the past 20 years. The module builds on a 1st semester 2nd year module in Animal Behaviour, which focuses on mechanisms and ontogeny of behaviour, by placing behaviour into a greater evolutionary and an ecological context.


1. What is behavioural ecology? 2. Natural selection, ecology and behaviour. 3: Testing hypotheses in behavioural ecology. 4: Economic decision making (I). 5: Economic decision making (II). 6: Economic decision making: Practical introduction. 7: Evolutionary arms races (I): predators and prey. 8: Evolutionary arms races (II): parasites and hosts. 9: Competition. 10: Benefits of group living (I). 11: Benefits of group living (II). 12: Costs of group living and optimal group sizes. 13: Animal conflict (I, theory). 14: Animal conflict (II, examples). 15: Cooperation. 16: Selfishness & altruism. 17: Routes to Eusociality. 18: Altruism in the social insects. 19: Evolution of signals. 20: Sexual displays and ornamentation. 21: Functions of mate choice. 22: Mating systems. 23: Sperm competition. 24: Parental care. 25: Human behavioural ecology (I). 26: Human behavioural ecology (II).

1: Economic decision making in animals (Campus). 2: Group living in animals (RSPB Ynys Hir). 3: Patterns of mate choice in humans (Lab)

Brief description

The module analyses the adaptive significance of behaviour using cost-benefit, optimality and game-theory models. Topics include habitat selection and the ideal free distribution, introducing the concept of evolutionary stable strategies (ESSs). Feeding behaviour is used to introduce optimality models as exemplified by optimal foraging models. Predator-prey interactions illustrate the development of a components model and the use of computer simulations. Social behaviour and territoriality are analysed using both cost-benefit and ESS models. Mate choice and the evolution of secondary sexual characteristics and parental behaviour illustrate the concept of sexual selection and its consequences for individual inclusive fitness. The functional analysis of parental behaviour illustrates the problem of co-operation and conflict between parents, and between parents and offspring, and the examination of host-parasite and mutualistic relationships extends these analyses to inter-specific interactions.

Module Skills

Problem_solving Design and implementation of experimental field studies  
Research skills Data collection, statistical analysis and report writing for all practical sessions; reading and critically assessing scientific literature to underpin report introduction and discussion sections  
Communication Written communication through practical report writing  
Improving own Learning and Performance Attendance at lectures, participation in practical sessions.  
Team work Students work in coordinated teams in all practicals.  
Information Technology Use of statistical data analysis packages (MINITAB), spreadsheets / graphing (Excel) and word processing software packages in practical report writing  
Application of Number Data collection, basic statistical analysis, normality testing, non-parametric and parametric statistical testing of hypotheses.  
Personal Development and Career planning Skills developed in this module will have value for subsequent careers in Behavioural Ecology.  
Subject Specific Skills Field, lab and analysitical skills associated with undertaking research in Behavioural Ecology.  


This module is at CQFW Level 5