BIOL 215 (Fall)

Introduction to Ecology & Evolution

N. Price (Coordinator) N6/12 (514) 398-6468
E. Abouheif N3/6 (514) 398-4087
J. Sunday N8/3 (514) 398-8885
3 credits (3-0-6)
BIOL 111 (or equivalent).  Not open to students who have taken ENVR 202.

A core-level introduction to evolutionary and ecological processes. The general topics are those dealing with processes acting in all populations at all times, especially including those that bear on the assembly of communities and ecosystems. These include population dynamics, selection, competition, cladogenesis and trophic interactions.

Section 1.   The Major Radiations
Origin of life:  early Earth conditions; self-replicators; RNAworld. Bacterial radiation: early Archaean metabolic diversification. Eukaryote radiation. Archaea-Bacteria symbiosis; sex; multicellularity. Metazoan radiation: Ediacaran and Burgess faunas; Hox and body plans. Terrestrial radiation: land animals and plants.

Section 2.   Modern Diversity
The universal phylogentic tree: relationships among major groups. Taxonomy: categories of organisms. Bacteria-Archaea. Basal eukaryotes-euglenids-stramenophiles. Green plants-chlorophytes-rhodophytes. Fungi-amoebas. Animals.

Section 3.   Diversification
The branching process: quasispecies, webs and trees. Phylogenetics: cladistics; estimation of phylogenetic trees.  Selection and adaptation: rate of directional change. Cladogenesis: species and speciation; diversity of modern and extinct clades. Adaptive radiation: specialists and generalists; plasticity. Comparative method: valid inference from comparative data.

Section 4.  Abundance and distribution
Abundance and distribution. Population dynamics: exponential and density-regulated populations. Abundance and rarity: ecological niches. Species distributions: range dynamics, barriers; metapopulations. Biogeography.

Section 5.   Communities and ecosystems
Community diversity: species-area; major geographical patterns. Coexistence: diversity and environmental heterogeneity. Productivity and disturbance: diversity and ecological processes. Interaction and instability: predator-prey, host-parasite dynamics. Food-webs: characteristics of trophically complex communities.   Ecosystems: flows of material and energy between compartments. Consequences of diversity loss.

Ecology by Charles J. Krebs (Benjamin Cummings), 6th ed. 2009
Evolution by B.J. Hall (Jones and Bartlett Publishers) 1st ed. 2011
Two 1.5-hour lectures per week; tutorial conferences for discussion and clarification of material.

Assignments, midterm exam and final examination.

McGill University values academic integrity. Therefore all students must understand the meaning and consequences of cheating, plagiarism and other academic offences under the Code of Student Conduct and Disciplinary Procedures
(see for more information).

Last update: March 27, 2019