Animal Behaviour

This module explores how and why animals behave in the way that they do, building on many of the major themes of the Evolution module to highlight the links between behaviour, ecology and evolution. The central aim will be to understand the fitness consequences of behaviour - by focusing on three of the most important topics in behavioural research (reproduction, sociality and communication), we will investigate how the behaviour of an individual has evolved to maximise its survival and reproductive success.

Students will gain an understanding of how and why we study animal behaviour, at the same time developing their appreciation of scientific best practice. Students will be encouraged to relate specific knowledge to broader issues in ecology and evolution, and to critically reflect on what animal behaviour can tell us about behaviour in our own species. Additionally, students will be able to describe what behaviour actually is and understand the major factors that influence how animals (including humans) behave. Students will also develop the level of knowledge necessary to discuss a wide diversity of animal behaviours in a broad range of species, and describe the major approaches to understanding behaviour and apply Tinbergen's four questions to behavioural processes. Students will gain an enhanced understanding in a range of areas, including the importance of both nature and nurture in the evolution of behaviour, the ecological pressures that shape behaviour, the importance of the fitness consequences of behaviour at the individual level and the concepts of kin selection and inclusive fitness