BIOL 3101: Animal Behaviour

This course provides a basic introduction to the study of behaviour. Students concentrate on the evolution of behaviour by natural selection, and briefly consider behavioural genetics, development, and mechanistic aspects. The major topics considered include feeding, habitat choice, antipredator behaviour, parental care and reproductive tactics, mating systems, social behaviour, and human behaviour. Students develop a basic understanding of the evolution and adaptation of behaviour.

Learning outcomes

After successfully completing this course, students will be able to:

  • Distinguish between the three types of questions that may be asked about animal behaviour, and formulate hypotheses of each type to explain a given behaviour.
  • Distinguish between individual and group selection explanations for the evolution of behaviour, and explain why the latter is incorrect.
  • Explain the principles involved in the historical evolution of any behaviour.
  • Understand some of the mechanisms involved in the production of a behavioural sequence by an animal.
  • Understand the role of natural selection in the evolution of behaviour.
  • Discuss the evolution of human behaviour.
  • Outline the formulation of hypotheses about behaviour, the procedures used to test them, and the types of data that can be collected

Course topics

Unit 1: An Introduction to Behaviour

Unit 2: The Behaviour Machine: Proximate and Ultimate Causes

Unit 3: Acquiring Resources

Unit 4: Anti-Predator Behaviour

Unit 5: Partners and Parents

Unit 6: Social Behaviour

Required text and materials

Rubenstein. D.R., Alcock, J. (2019). Animal Behaviour: An Evolutionary Approach (11th ed.). Sunderland, MA: Sinauer Associates, Inc.
ISBN-13: 978-1605355481
Type: Textbook

Additional requirements

Computer with Internet is required.


Please be aware that due to COVID-19 safety guidelines all in-person exams have been suspended. As such, all final exams are currently being delivered through ProctorU, which has an approximate fee of $35 involved. There will be more information in your course shell, on how to apply, if your course has a final exam.

To successfully complete this course, students must achieve a passing grade of 50% or higher on the overall course, and 50% or higher on the mandatory final examination.

Assignment 1 10%
Assignment 2 10%
Assignment 3 10%
Assignment 4 30%
Final Exam* 40%
Total 100%

* Mandatory

Open Learning Faculty Member

An Open Learning Faculty Member is available to assist students. Students will receive the necessary contact information at the start of your course.

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