Evolution and Animal Diversity

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The part 1A Evolution and Animal Diversity course follows a similar structure to 1A Evolution & Behaviour, with more detailed insights into animal behaviour, especially in Michaelmas term. If you took 1A E&B, you will be familiar with the reappearing themes of trade-offs and conflict in evolution, which continue to be core concepts in 1B EAD as it focuses primarily on animals. There is no prerequisite for this course, although it may be an advantage to have taken 1A E&B.

The bulk of the Lent term lectures are dedicated to genetics and macroevolution, where you will expand on previously discussed topics such as selection and drift, introgression, GWAS and QTL analysis, etc. Some lectures also explore infectious disease and their evolution, using recent examples such as SARS-CoV-2.

One novel element of 1B EAD is insects! There are two lecture blocks on insects – one on their amazing physiology, and another on insect learning. These lectures cover everything from insect respiration, cuticle, and flight to the circuit motifs in the Drosophila brain. Similarly, there is also a lecture block which explores vertebrate evolution where you will learn about vertebrate hearing, circulation, thermoregulation, etc. You will also hear about dinosaurs in your lectures!

For almost all the lecture series, you will be given access to complete and detailed notes, as well as the slides used during the lectures. They are usually made available before lectures, which take place at 11am on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. You may want to read outside of the lecture handouts for more examples than what is provided.

The lecture series titles are listed below:


  • Behavioural Ecology of Predators and Prey
  • Development and Organisation of Adaptive Behaviour
  • Phenotypic Models
  • Vertebrate Evolutionary Biology


  • Population & Quantitative Genetics
  • Evolutionary Genomics & Infectious Disease
  • Phylogeny & Macroevolution
  • Insect Physiology


  • Brains & Behaviour


Supervisions are likely to be similar to what you had in 1A. You discuss content from the past week’s lectures with your supervisor and perhaps discuss some essay plans. Depending on your supervisor, you may also be asked to prepare short presentations on scientific papers, just to get into the practice of reading more widely around the subject.


1B EAD practicals are timetabled to happen every other week, so you are expected to attend a total of 4 sessions per term (excluding Easter term). For every practical, you are expected to produce a write-up, which is due one week after your practical session.

All practical write-ups are assessed and contribute to 20% of your final 1B EAD mark. You can expect to submit a total of 7 write-ups throughout the year (4 in Michaelmas, 2 in Lent*, 1 in Easter Term). The way these write-ups are graded are similar to 1A E&B, where you will be marked on a scale of A, B, C and D. The content and format of each write-up will differ depending on the expectations of the practical organisers.

Practical topics follow quite closely what you learn in your lectures and are often organised by your lecturers. The practical titles for 2022/23 are as follows:


  • Measuring the behavioural preferences of animals
  • Barnacle geese
  • Game theoretical models of animal behaviour
  • Vertebrate cranial and histological anatomy


  • Moths and symbionts* – carried out over 3 practical sessions (i.e. 6 weeks of term)
  • Respiration in aquatic insects


  • Learning in insects

Revision and Exams

There are 2 written papers for 1B EAD, each 3 hours long, closed-book, in-person via Inspera (as of 2022/23). Both Paper 1 & 2 carry equal weight of 40% of your total 1B EAD mark.

The 2022/23 format is as follows:

Paper 1 (3 hours)

  • Choose 4 out of 9 essay questions, from at least 3 out of 4 sections:
    • Behavioural Evolution (Michaelmas lectures)
    • Genes and Genomes
    • Macroevolution and Diversity (incl. Vertebrate Evolutionary Biology)
    • Adaptations
    • Insect Physiology
    • Brains & Behaviour
  • Each essay is 10% of total 1B EAD mark

Paper 2 (3 hours)

  • Answer 5 out of 6 questions (any lecture series could be tested!)
  • “Short-answer” questions, with sub-questions carrying equal marks
  • You may be asked to draw diagrams, read graphs, do some calculations, etc.
  • A relatively new format, which evaluates more on experimental thinking and design. You may want to practise this with your supervisor!

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