BIOL 435 (Fall)

Natural Selection

G. Bell
(514) 398-6458
3 credits (3-0-6)
BIOL 304 or permission of instructor.

This course explains how the selection of undirected variation accounts for some of the leading features of the natural world.  Its main focus is evolutionary change and adaptation, but it will also include material from ecological, economic, biochemical and computer systems.  The course is divided into six sections.

  • Simple selection. The general consequences of self-replication by nucleic acids, computer programs and other types of entity.
  • Selection on a single character. Fitness and selection among organisms.  A single episode of selection as the unit event in evolution. Sorting: the selection of pre-existing variation. The rate of change and the limits to change. Continued selection: successive substitution and the cumulation of novel mutations. The evolution of novel characters.
  • Selection on several characters: the indirect response to selection. The evolution of reproduction and natural death. The evolution of specialization and plasticity.  Levels of selection.
  • Autoselection. The dynamics of mutators, transposons, symbionts and other genomic elements that parasitize the transmission system.
  • Social selection. Density-dependent and frequency-dependent selection. The theory of genotypic interaction and the evolutionarily stable state. Kin selection and group selection. Coevolution of antagonists and mutualists.
  • Sexual selection. Selection in the sexual life cycle. Sexual selection among gametes. The evolution of gender and sexual isolation.
Bell, G. 2008.  Selection: the Mechanism of Evolution. Oxford University Press
Three one-hour lectures per week.

Midterm, and formal final examination comprising short essays and problems.

Last update: March 9, 2016

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