Evolutionary Biology

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EvoDevo (Evolutionary Biology Part) BSS 513 4 Credits
Course Logistics

This twenty-weeks long course is designed to lay foundations of evolutionary thought and to appreciate its importance as the key philosophical foundation of Biology. The course also dwells surprising parallelism between evolution and developmental biology, as Haeckel put it right in his recapitulation theory: " "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny".

Videotaped lectures will be available on the Video Lectures part of the course website. The lectures build on each other, so you should view them in the order listed. The few lectures listed as "Honors" or "Optional" will not be covered on the quizzes but are provided in case you want to go into more depth.

One particularly exciting feature of our course is the free in-course textbook materials. This textbook is not required, but it should be helpful to students who want to read more detailed explanations or additional examples or who want to delve more deeply into topics that fascinate them. Please note that access to the textbook is available only for the duration of the course.  


Short ungraded exercises will occasionally be embedded into lectures. Each lecture will be followed by ungraded exercises. Answers to these exercises will be given and explained after you reply to the questions. These exercises do not introduce new material, but they enable you to check your understanding of the lectures. If you miss too many of the exercises after a lecture, then you might want to listen to that lecture again.

Time Commitment

You should expect to spend on about 2 hours per week watching the lectures, another 2 hours per week doing the exercises, and about 1 hour on each quiz. You might want to spend additional time doing the reading and participating in the discussion forums.

Online Q&A Section

Hangouts Group Video Chat Session
Next Google Hangouts Group Video Chat Session is scheduled on August 25, 2017 4PM-5PM Indian Standard Time

How to join?
    Just click on the above image on the schedule. I will be available 5 minutes before the schedule. Make sure you are on a mic, and at a well-lit place. Hangouts works on mobile phones as well with Hangouts application.

Previous schedules (2016)
August 26
Sep 9
Sep 23
Oct 7
Oct 21

Syllabus/Course Materials

1.       The emergence of evolutionary thoughts: Lamarck; Darwin–concepts of variation, adaptation, struggle, fitness and natural selection; Mendelism; the spontaneity of mutations; the evolutionary synthesis.

PowerPoint Slides


Carroll, S.B., Evo-devo and an expanding evolutionary synthesis: a genetic theory of morphological evolution. Cell, 2008. 134(1): p. 25-36.

SJ Gould - arkiv.certec.lth.se
SJ Gould, RC Lewontin - … of the Royal …, 1979 
N Eldredge, SJ Gould - Models in paleobiology, 1972
SJ GouldN Eldredge - Paleobiology, 1977

2.       Origin of life and unicellular evolution: Origin of basic biological molecules; abiotic synthesis of organic monomers and  polymers; concept of Oparin and  Haldane; experiment of Miller (1953); the  first cell; evolution of prokaryotes; origin of eukaryotic cells; evolution of  unicellular eukaryotes; anaerobic metabolism, photosynthesis, and aerobic metabolism.

PowerPoint Slides


3.       Paleontology and evolutionary history: The evolutionary time scale; eras, periods and epoch; major events in the evolutionary time scale; origins of unicellular and multicellular organisms; stages in primate evolution including  Homo sapiens.

PowerPoint Slides

Evolutionary Time Scale, Extinctions, Fossils


BAST, F. 2015. A Brief History of Earth. Ocean Digest, 2 (1) p 7-8. ISSN: 23941928 PDF

4.       Molecular Evolution: Concepts of neutral evolution, molecular divergence and molecular clocks; molecular tools in phylogeny, classification and identification; protein and nucleotide sequence analysis; origin of new genes and proteins; gene duplication and divergence.

PowerPoint Slides


Nova's Evolution Game

BAST, F. 2015. Tutorial on Phylogenetic Inference Part-1. Resonance 20 (4) 360-367 PDF

BAST, F. 2015. Tutorial on Phylogenetic Inference Part-2. Resonance 20 (5) 445-457 PDF

5.       Evolutionary Mechanisms: populations, gene pool, gene frequency; Hardy-Weinberg  law; concepts and rate of change in gene frequency through natural selection,  migration and random genetic drift; adaptive radiation and modifications; isolating mechanisms; speciation; allopatricity and sympatricity; convergent evolution; significance of sex in evolution, co-evolution.



Suggested reading:

  1. TTC - A New History of Life DVD 37 Lectures (Strongly Recommended; For copies approach me)
  2. Darwin,  C.R.  (1911).  On  the  origin  of  species  by  means  of  natural  Selection,  or preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. Hurst Publishers, UK.
  3. Dawkins, R. (1996). The Blind Watchmaker, W.W. Norton & Company Jones and Bartlett Publishers.
  4. Futuyma, D.J. (2009). Evolution. Sinauer Associates Inc. USA.
  5. Hake,  S.  and  Wilt,  F.  (2003).  Principles  of  Developmental  Biology.  W.W.  Norton  and Company, New York, USA.
  6. Hall,  B.K.  and  Hallgrimsson,  B.  (2007).  Strickberger’s  Evolution.  Jones  and  Bartlett  Publishers, India.
  7. Lewin, R. (2004). Human Evolution - An Illustrated Introduction. Wiley-Blackwell, USA.
  8. Scott, F. and Gilbert, S.F. (2010). Developmental Biology. Sinauer Associates, Inc. USA.
  9. Slack, J.M.W. (2005). Essential Developmental Biology, Wiley-Blackwell, USA.
  10. Mario Livio 2013  "Brilliant Blunders-Darwin to Einstein - Colossal Mistakes by Great Scientists That Changed Our Understanding of Life and the Universe, Simon & Schuster (Chapters 1 and 2)
  11. Dawkins R (2015) Greatest Show on Earth-Evidences of Evolution
Thursdays third hour, at classroom No. 11

Upcoming quiz and assignment

Quiz 1General Evolution Quiz (Deadline: July 28, 2017)

Assignment 1. Evolution Conceptual Mind-Map-Click here to edit (Open deadline: Continuous assessment)


Assignment 2. Individual assignment. Create 10 multiple choice questions with answer keys from each unit. 
Questions should be conceptual and should test comprehensive understanding. Deadline: September 30, 2017
Submit your assignments here

Assignment 3. Group Assignment. Topic: " Niche Construction Theory and its importance in the Evolution” Deadline: September 30, 2017
Edit and submit your assignment here. Note: Log into google while visiting this link; this enables me to assess the contribution of individual students.

Related Resources

General Links


About Podcasts: Podcasts are recorded radio shows. One can use apps such as Podcast Addict or iTunes to subscribe to the podcasts. New episodes will be downloaded to the device automatically, and as we listen, old episodes will be replaced with the new ones. Ideal for listening while going for daily strolls!

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