BIOL 307 (Winter)

Behavioural Ecology

S. Reader N7/12 (514) 398-6421
M. Guigueno N7/3 (514) 398-2688
3 credits (2-1-6)
BIOL 205BIOL 215 or permission of instructor.

This course is designed as an introduction to animal behaviour and to ecology at the level of the individual organism. It takes an evolutionary perspective on the relationships between the behaviour of individual animals and their physical environment, their predators and prey, and the activities of members of their own and other species. Emphasis will be on general principles emerging in this rapidly developing field. Application of these principles to the biology of humans will be briefly discussed. An important secondary theme of the course is the process of critical and creative reading of primary research articles in the field. The conferences will involve discussions of research articles to enrich understanding of the lecture material and to illustrate the process of critical reading. The written critiques require evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of a particular research article and its significance for the major themes of the course.

Lecture 1. Introduction: Why study behavioural ecology?
Lecture 2. History of the field
Lecture 3/4. The analysis of behaviour: Observing and quantifying behaviour
Lecture 5. Testing hypotheses and interpreting results
Lecture 6. Levels of analysis, evolution, and development
Lecture 7. Adaptive explanations of behaviour
Lecture 8. Optimal foraging
Lecture 9. Predator avoidance
Lecture 10. Game theory and resource competition
Lecture 11. Living in groups
Lecture 12. Social foraging
Lecture 13. Learning and cognition
Lecture 14. Midterm review
Lecture 15. Social learning and social cognition 1
Lecture 16. Social learning and social cognition 2
Lecture 17. Sexual selection and mate choice
Lecture 18. Parental care
Lecture 19. Mating systems
Lecture 20. Communication
Lecture 21-23. Evolution of social behaviour 1-3: Kin selection and eusociality
Lecture 22-23. Evolutionary approaches to human behaviour
Lecture 24. Mechanisms of behaviour
Lecture 25. New topics and controversies in behavioural ecology
Lecture 26. Summing up


An Introduction to Behavioural Ecology, by Davies, N.B., Krebs, J.R. & West, S.A. 2012, Fourth Edition, Wiley-Blackwell.
ISBN; 978-1-4051-1416-5.

Two lectures a week plus seminar.

Take-home exam consisting of critiques of research papers during term, conference attendance and participation, oral presentation and a midterm 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 20, 2019