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.
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
- 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
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.
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.
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.