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Coevolutionary Interactions

Module titleCoevolutionary Interactions
Module codeBIO3401
Academic year2018/9
Module staff

Dr Camille Bonneaud (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

The evolution of one species in response to another, and reciprocal adaptation of the other species to the first, plays a central role in shaping the great diversity we see in nature. The module will examine coevolution primarily using three approaches:

  • experimental coevolution of species under controlled laboratory conditions;
  • molecular, genomic and chemical ecological trait matching;
  • comparison of species phylogenies.

Using these approaches, we will investigate how species interactions might generate and maintain diversity, drive speciation, help or hinder the spread of invasive species, and affect the stability of communities.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The aim of this module is to explore the evolution and ecology of species interactions (such as host-parasite, plant-pollinator, predator-prey, and mutualistic) in order to understand how coevolution affects trait evolution and structures both biological diversity and ecosystem function.

The module is research-led and incorporates ongoing CEC research on, for example, infectious diseases, plant-pollinator interactions, character displacement and microbiomes. Throughout the module, you will reflect on whether the cases under discussion provide evidence for coevolution and will thus engage in a real life topical scientific debate.

This module will provide you with the opportunity to develop your understanding of species interactions, your ability to interpret and apply evolutionary and ecological theory, and your critical thinking skills. Furthermore, during the module you will take part in and lead group discussions, create and present a poster on a species interaction, and critically evaluate the literature, all of which are skills key to future employability.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Infer patterns of species interactions by comparing phylogenies
  • 2. Examine the traits underlying species interactions and predict how these traits evolve
  • 3. Formulate hypotheses on how coevolution might lead to diversification and, eventually, new species
  • 4. Apply simple models to untangle the complex nature of ecological interactions
  • 5. Identify practical methods for the study of species interactions

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 6. Describe in detail and analyse essential facts and theory across a sub-discipline of biosciences
  • 7. Analyse and evaluate independently a range of research-informed literature and synthesize examples from the literature into written work
  • 8. Identify and implement, with limited guidance, appropriate methodologies and theories for solving a range of complex problems in biosciences
  • 9. Evaluate established techniques of analysis, practical investigation, and enquiry within biosciences
  • 10. Describe and evaluate in detail approaches to our understanding of biosciences with reference to primary literature, reviews and research articles

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 11. Devise and sustain, with little guidance, a logical and reasoned argument with sound, convincing conclusions
  • 12. Communicate effectively arguments, evidence and conclusions using a variety of formats in a manner appropriate to the intended audience
  • 13. Analyse and evaluate appropriate data
  • 14. Evaluate own strengths and weaknesses in relation to graduate-level professional and practical skills, and act autonomously to develop new areas of skills as necessary
  • 15. Reflect effectively and independently on learning experiences and evaluate personal achievements
  • 16. Work in a small team and deal proficiently with the issues that teamwork requires (i.e. communication, motivation, decision-making, awareness, responsibility, and management skills, including setting and working to deadlines)

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

Lectures will cover:

  • The types of coevolutionary interactions
  • Approaches used to examine coevolution
  • Cospeciation and diversification
  • Evidence from micro and macroevolution
  • The dynamics of coevolution
  • The geographic mosaic theory of coevolution
  • Evolution of virulence
  • Chemical ecology underlying species interactions
  • Levels of coevolution
  • Multi-species coevolution
  • Species interaction networks
  • Community coevolution

You will work in groups to research and lead discussion on a different topic each week. The final project involves a poster presentation on the evidence of coevolution from a species interaction of your choice.

Learning and teaching

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching9Lectures and group activities covering all the material outlined above
Scheduled learning and teaching6Group-led discussion of key papers/topics
Scheduled Learning and Teaching3Poster session with group discussion
Guided independent study132Additional reading, research and preparation for module assessments


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Contribution to group discussion1 hour1-6, 8-16Written
Participation during activities and discussionsOngoing throughout the moduleAllOral

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay examination601 hour1-13Written on request
Poster presentation301xA2 poster, <2000 words1-13Written and oral
Presentation and in-class discussion101 hour1-6, 8-16Written and oral


Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Essay examinationEssay examination1-13August re-assessment period
Poster presentationPoster1-13August assessment period
Presentation and in-class discussionNot applicableNot applicableNot applicable

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The contribution to class discussions assessment is not deferrable due to its practical nature. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to sit a further examination. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of referral will count for 100% of the final mark and will be capped at 40%.


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Thompson JN (1994) The Coevolutionary Process. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
  • Ehrlich, PR, Raven, PH 1964. Butterflies and plants: a study in coevolution. Evolution 18, 586-608.
  • Farrell, Brian D. "Inordinate fondness" explained: Why are there so many beetles?" Science 281.5376 (1998): 555-559.
  • Nuismer, Scott L., Richard Gomulkiewicz, and Benjamin J. Ridenhour. "When is correlation coevolution?" The American Naturalist 175.5 (2010): 525-537.

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Evolution, ecology, species-interactions, disease, predation, mutualism

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


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Last revision date