BI2EN5-Animal Behaviour

Module Provider: School of Biological Sciences
Number of credits: 10 [5 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Spring term module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Module version for: 2014/5

Module Convenor: Prof Richard Sibly


Summary module description:

This module provides a general introduction to the study of animal behaviour and shows how facts about behaviour are established. Attention is given to how and why central hypotheses are formulated, how experiments are designed to distinguish between hypotheses, and how the results are analysed and interpreted.

Assessable learning outcomes:
By the end of the module it is expected that the student will be able to:

  • describe and justify some of the main theoretical approaches in animal behaviour
  • describe research findings in selected areas of animal behaviour
  • design, carry out and analyse simple behavioural experiments
  • critically evaluate scientific papers reporting behaviour research

Additional outcomes:
Students gain experience of oral discussion of a scientific paper in a seminar.

Outline content:
This module provides a general introduction to the study of animal behaviour. Both the classical ethological and the selfish-gene approaches are described. In order to understand behaviour, it is necessary to consider its role in increasing the chances that an individual will survive and reproduce. Such considerations are relevant to man and domesticated animals as well as to 'wild' species. Topics covered may include: To what extent are behaviours genetically determined and to what extent do they depend on developmental experience? Why have some behaviours evolved in some situations but not others? How have altruistic behaviours evolved, and which individuals receive help? Why do animals fight and which individuals do they fight? In what circumstances do learning and communication have survival value? Suggestions for further reading are provided and you are encouraged to read around the lectures.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:
Lectures introduce various aspects of animal behaviour. Students are expected to read and critically evaluate a scientific paper, with guidance being provided in a seminar. Practicals introduce quantitative techniques used to record and analyse behaviour and some illustrative films are shown.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 10
Seminars 1
Demonstration 6
Practicals classes and workshops 8
Guided independent study 75
Total hours by term 100.00
Total hours for module 100.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written exam 70
Class test administered by School 30

Other information on summative assessment:
Performance in understanding practicals and films and evaluating a scientific paper is assessed using multiple choice tests.

Formative assessment methods:

Penalties for late submission:
The Module Convener will apply the following penalties for work submitted late, in accordance with the University policy.

  • where the piece of work is submitted up to one calendar week after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): 10% of the total marks available for the piece of work will be deducted from the mark for each working day (or part thereof) following the deadline up to a total of five working days;
  • where the piece of work is submitted more than five working days after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): a mark of zero will be recorded.

  • The University policy statement on penalties for late submission can be found at:
    You are strongly advised to ensure that coursework is submitted by the relevant deadline. You should note that it is advisable to submit work in an unfinished state rather than to fail to submit any work.

    Length of examination:
    A one-and-half hour examination requiring the answer to two questions from four.

    Requirements for a pass:
    A mark of 40% overall.

    Reassessment arrangements:
    Re-examination in August/September only.

    Last updated: 8 October 2014

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