Behavioural Ecology 4B option BIOL4008

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Biodiversity One Health Vet Med
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 4 (SCQF level 10)
  • Typically Offered: Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes

Short Description

This course considers the ways in which the behaviour of animals contributes to their survival and reproductive success. Two main themes run through the course: how behaviour and life histories are influenced by ecological conditions and natural selection, and the consequences of the behaviour of individuals for distribution patterns and population structure.


This option is assigned to block S2-B. Normally, one 2-hour afternoon session and one 1-hour morning session on Tuesdays. 

Requirements of Entry

Normally, only available to final-year School of Life Sciences students in a Degree Group A (Animal Biology group) programme. Visiting students may be allowed to enrol, at the discretion of the School of Life Sciences Chief Adviser and the Course Coordinator.

Excluded Courses



The course will be assessed by a 2-hour end-of-course examination (70%) and in-course assessment consisting of a written assignment (30%). The written assignment will involve the design of a behavioural ecology experiment aimed at answering a research question provided by the staff.

Main Assessment In: April/May

Are reassessment opportunities available for all summative assessments? Not applicable for Honours courses

Reassessments are normally available for all courses, except those which contribute to the Honours classification. For non-Honours courses, students are offered reassessment in all or any of the components of assessment if the satisfactory (threshold) grade for the overall course is not achieved at the first attempt. This is normally grade D3 for undergraduate students and grade C3 for postgraduate students. Exceptionally it may not be possible to offer reassessment of some coursework items, in which case the mark achieved at the first attempt will be counted towards the final course grade. Any such exceptions for this course are described below. 

Course Aims

The aim of the course is to develop an understanding of the ways in which the behaviour of animals contributes to their survival and reproductive success. Students will be introduced to the major concepts in behavioural ecology, and to the methods used. 

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course, students will be able to: 

■ Distinguish between causal, functional, developmental and phylogenetic explanations of behaviour;

■ Appraise the different approaches to studying adaptive significance of behaviour;

■ Examine the individual based approach of behavioural ecology;

■ Explain what is meant by optimality models and cost-benefit analysis;

■ Discuss the factors that influence foraging behaviour, mating systems, social organisation and the evolution of apparently altruistic behaviour;

■ Discuss life history trade-offs and how these can be studied;

■ Assess how the mechanisms underlying life history trade-offs are studied.

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.