Course Aim

Participants interpret the fossil and living biodiversity record, collect and examine morphological and developmental data and read phylogenies. Students collect and parse evolutionary and ecological data, design inferential, observational, and metaanalysis/multi-dataset studies to test and select among explicit macroevolutionary hypotheses including the big questions and concepts in evolutionary and organismal biology.

Course Description

Macroevolution, or evolution above the population level and on long timescales, addresses fundamental questions regarding the origins of species, past and present. These include (but are not limited to): How are highly dissimilar species related? Why are animals on distant continents so similar? How and when did major groups, like arthropods or fishes, originate? What drives evolutionary arms races between predators and prey? Why are there so many more species of beetle than crocodile? Why are there more species in the tropics than the Arctic? Why do some animals survive mass extinction? How can invasive species spread so rapidly? Exploring these topics provides class participants with an opportunity to learn important concepts underlying our understanding of modern biodiversity and the fossil record. Using different methods and lines of evidence, including evolutionary trees (phylogeny), developmental and morphological observations, biodiversity and ecological databases, past climate and global events, biomechanics, mathematical modeling, and even data from modern genomics, they begin to answer essential questions about the evolution of life. This course will consist of lectures introducing concepts and methods followed by discussion sessions based on student questions and readings outside class.

Course Contents

Monday and Wednesday 1300-1500


Attendance and engagement (30%), Weekly written questions and reading comments for discussion (homework; 30%; 2 hours a week), Final project preparation and talk (40%).

Prerequisites or Prior Knowledge

B23 Molecular Evolution, and undergraduate biology, especially evolution
Course B23 Molecular Evolution is required. Contact Prof Sallan if you seek an exemption.

Research Specialties