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Animal Life Histories

Module titleAnimal Life Histories
Module codeBIO3413
Academic year2020/1
Module staff

Dr Nick Royle (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

Why are animals big or small? Why do they produce many offspring or few? Why do some species live short lives and some long lives? Why must they grow old and die? During this module you will explore the answers to these questions and more and discover how an understanding of life-history evolution can help inform decision-making in the conservation and management of wildlife. This will be achieved through a series of lectures, discussions and student presentations. 

Module aims - intentions of the module

The aim of this module is to develop and expand your understanding of some of the principles introduced in Ecology and Conservation (BIO1426), Introduction to Evolution (BIO1429) and Behavioural Ecology (BIO2430) with that of Biodiversity and Conservation (BIO2406) by exploring animal life history diversity and evolution in the context of conservation and wildlife biology. The module will focus on the role of natural selection in the evolution of life histories, examine the diversity of animal life histories from an ontogenetic perspective, and examine how an understanding of animal life histories can illuminate issues in conservation biology and wildlife management.

As such the module is strongly research-led, including elements of research undertaken by module staff such as papers on compensatory growth in swordtail fishes, ageing in crickets and parental care in burying beetles and is focused on addressing real-world problems (using cutting edge research examples) thereby strengthening a variety of skills that will enhance employability. In particular the module will allow you to will further develop the following academic and professional skills:

  • problem solving and the evaluation of evidence (linking theory to practice, developing your own ideas with confidence, being able to respond to novel and unfamiliar problems),
  • managing structure (identifying key demands of the task, setting clearly defined goals, responding flexibly to changing priorities),
  • time management (managing time effectively individually and within a group),
  • collaboration (respecting the views and values of others, taking initiative and leading others, supporting others in their work, maintaining group cohesiveness and purpose), and
  • audience awareness (presenting ideas effectively in multiple formats, persuading others of the importance and relevance of your views, responding positively and effectively to questions).   

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Illustrate the diversity of animal life histories
  • 2. Describe life history evolution including its theoretical framework
  • 3. Explain how an understanding of animal life history evolution and diversity can inform conservation and wildlife management decision-making

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 4. Describe in detail and analyse essential facts and theory across a sub-discipline of biosciences
  • 5. Analyse and evaluate independently a range of research-informed literature and synthesise research-informed examples from the literature into written work
  • 6. Identify and implement, with limited guidance, appropriate methodologies and theories for solving a range of complex problems in biosciences
  • 7. With minimal guidance, deploy established techniques of analysis, practical investigation, and enquiry within biosciences
  • 8. 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...

  • 9. Devise and sustain, with little guidance, a logical and reasoned argument with sound, convincing conclusions
  • 10. Communicate effectively arguments, evidence and conclusions using a variety of formats in a manner appropriate to the intended audience
  • 11. Analyse and evaluate appropriate data and complete a range of research-like tasks with very limited guidance
  • 12. 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
  • 13. Reflect effectively and independently on learning experiences and evaluate personal achievements

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

Lecture material is likely to cover topics such as

  • life history theory
  • resource allocation trade-offs
  • parental effects
  • growth
  • costs of reproduction
  • ageing and senescence
  • sex allocation
  • harvest-induced evolution
  • extinction risk
  • invasive species

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 teaching 12Lectures and associated, related activities covering material such as animal life history evolution, maternal effects, growth, costs of reproduction, ageing and senescence, sex allocation, harvest-induced evolution, extinction risk and invasive species.
Scheduled learning and teaching 12Discussion sessions on key topics in life history evolution and conservation
Guided independent study126Additional reading and research in preparation for module assessments.


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Quizzes, graphical abstracts, presentations and short answer questions etc online and during lectures and discussionsOngoing throughout the moduleAllOral and/or written, as appropriate

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
Essay601500 words1-11Written on request
Lay summary of an article40500 words1-11Feedback sheet


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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay1-11August assessment period
Lay summary of an articleLay summary of an article1-11August assessment period

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 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

Basic reading is given below (available as e-books), but the majority of reading resources will be relevant review and primary research articles:

  • Flatt, T. and Heyland, A. (2011) Mechanisms of Life-History Evolution Oxford University Press, is a key text for life-history mechanisms
  • Carroll, S.P. and Fox, C.W. (2008) Conservation Biology – Evolution in Action Oxford University Press, is a core text for conservation and wildlife management.

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Animal life history evolution, maternal effects, growth, reproduction, ageing, senescence, conservation biology, wildlife management, harvest-induced evolution, invasive species, extinction risk

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date