Topics in Ecology and Evolution: Extreme Life Styles

Most of us are quite familiar with the life span and reproductive patterns of mammals like us, but many are less familiar with the many other ways that organisms have found to thrive. In this class, we will explore the ecological factors that shape the evolution of the diversity of life-style strategies we see in the natural world from eusocial insects, extreme sexual dimorphism, and environment dependent sexual expression to the inverted life cycle of ferns, plants that seem to defy aging and live forever, bacteria and insects impervious to radiation, and parasites that control their hosts. Through examining the processes that shape these life histories we will learn about classic topics in evolutionary ecology including natural selection, sexual selection, eusociality, phenotypic plasticity, multi-cellularity, the evolution of senescence, and classic life history theory. Historically, science advances when people ask questions using organisms that are best suited to answering their question. Now that advanced genetic tools can be used in non-model systems, it is again vital that you know, appreciate, and understand the diversity of ways that organisms thrive and the processes that lead to that diversity. Therefore, we will also spend time discussing how humans have leveraged these diverse life cycles to solve uniquely human problems. A substantial portion of this class will be based on reading and discussing primary literature. Students will also be guided through the development of a popular science style paper and presentation over the course of the class. Pre-req = BIO 202L.

Course Number: 
BIOLOGY490S Sp15 Extreme Life Styles
Course Level: 
400-499
Curriculum Codes: 
Biology Area: