Syllabus for Evolution -- Zoology/Botany

Description Of An Undergraduate Evolution Course And Associated Laboratory

Mark Hafner, an evolutionary biologist at Louisiana State University, designed and teaches a series of two undergraduate courses focusing on evolution. One of these is a 3-credit lecture course, Evolution -- Zoology/Botany 3040 and the second is a 1-credit associated laboratory course, Evolution Laboratory -- Zoology/Botany 3041. The university catalogue describes the two course series as teaching the "basic principles and processes of evolutionary biology." The instructor's goal for the course series is for students to understand and be able to explain each of the basic concepts that comprise the theory of evolution (e.g., genetic drift, natural selection, gene flow, speciation, inbreeding, etc.) A second, more complex goal, is for students to understand the linkages between the basic concepts of evolutionary theory, so that by the end of the semester students' understandings of evolution consist of a framework of interrelated concepts.

The instructional goals for the laboratory are stated in the Preface of the lab manual:

In most American colleges and universities, the subject of evolutionary biology is taught as the history of life viewed in the context of processes that mold that history. Although the historical facts, themselves, seem relatively easy for students to grasp, a true understanding of evolutionary processes requires mastery of a daunting set of abstract concepts including panmixia, vicariance, natural selection, and genetic drift. Because it is generally held that abstract concepts are not amenable to laboratory instruction, evolutionary biology is normally taught exclusively in lecture format.

Research has shown that even those students who perform well in an evolution course often fail to grasp the most basic evolutionary concepts (B. A. Bishop and C. W. Anderson, J. Res. Science Teaching, 27:415-427, 1990). This seeming paradox suggests over-reliance on rote learning: that is, most students can define natural selection, genetic drift, and other basic evolutionary concepts, but few understand the causes and consequences of evolutionary processes, and even fewer understand the interrelationships among them.

The laboratories described in this manual are simulations, exercises, demonstrations, and discussions that emphasize the historical nature of evolutionary biology and reinforce the students' understanding of the evolutionary concepts introduced in lecture. (Hafner, 1994, p. 1).

The laboratory is designed to reinforce the often abstract lecture concepts through students' direct application of concepts to biological situations. Because the laboratory cannot address all the lecture concepts, only the most foundational topics are the focus of exercises. To move students beyond rote learning, the course instruction emphasizes the students' application of knowledge.

The lecture course meets for one hour, three times per week during the length of a semester (for a total of approximately 40 class sessions). The laboratory meets for a three-hour session once each week during the length of a semester (for a total of approximately 12 laboratory sessions).

The lecture course requires students to have completed introductory biology (with lab) plus four additional semester hours of biology (with lab). Entrance into the laboratory course requires credit or concurrent enrollment in the lecture course.

Zoology/Botany 3040

This is a course in evolutionary biology that uses animal and plant examples to illustrate and clarify fundamental concepts in evolution. The course will concentrate on basic evolutionary mechanisms and theory. During the semester, we will analyze classical as well as more recent contributions to our understanding of evolution as the unifying concept in biology.

There are three 1-hour lectures per week. Your grade in the course will be based on two 1-hour examinations given during the regular lecture hour (see lecture schedule), plus the final examination. The required text for the course is Evolutionary Biology (Minkoff, 1983). For additional background information, you may wish to consult A Primer of Population Genetics, 2nd Edition (Hartl, 1988) and Conceptual Issues in Evolutionary Biology (Sober, 1994). If you ever need to talk with me about anything related to this course, please see me after class to schedule a meeting time that is mutually convenient.

Course Calender

First lecture 29 August (Monday)
Examination I 30 September (Friday)
Examination II 4 November (Monday)
Last Lecture 5 December (Monday)
Final Examination week of 12-17 December

Lecture Schedule

The Historical Perspective (Readings: Minkoff text, pp. 44-80; Darwin, 1859, Chapters titled "Natural Selection" and "Recapitulation and Conclusion")

Aug. 29 - Introduction: Origins of evolutionary thought
Aug. 31 - Early ideas of evolution
Sept. 2 - Charles Darwin: The voyage of the Beagle

Species Concepts and Species Attributes (Readings: Minkoff, pp. 104-109, 239-243, and 251-254)

Sept. 7 - The "Modern Synthesis"
Sept. 9 - The nature of evolutionary units; Species concepts
Sept. 12 - The Biological Species concept

Mendelian Populations (Minkoff, pp. 112-117, 139-133, 136-154. Optional: Hartl, pp. 1-47)

Sept. 14 - Reproductive isolating mechanisms: Models of population growth
Sept. 16 - Variation in natural populations

Population Genetics 1 (Optional readings: Hartl, Chapter 1:47-65 and Chapter 2:69-113)

Sept. 19 - The causes of evolution; Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium
Sept. 21 - Mutation
Sept. 23 - Gene flow

Population Genetics II (Readings: Minkoff, Chapter 10. Optional: Hartl, pp. 114-137)

Sept. 26 - Genetic drift
Sept. 28 - Nonrandom breeding

Sept. 30 - EXAMINATION 1

Population Genetics III (Readings: Chapter 11; Chap. 12:205-210, 217-223; and Chap. 24:399-401)

Oct. 3 - Natural selection I: Stabilizing, directional, and disruptive selection
Oct. 5 - Natural selection II: The general selection model
Oct. 7 - Group selection, kin selection, and sociobiology

Geographic Variation (Readings: Chapter 12:211-213; and Chapter 13)

Oct. 10 - Phenotypic variation: Polygenic traits; Heritability
Oct. 12 - Variation over geography: The "niche" concept

Geographic Variation and Speciation (Readings: Chapter 14:243-251; 255)

Oct. 14 - Ecogeographic rules: Subspecies concepts
Oct. 17: - Clines and hybrid zones

Speciation and Evolutionary Rates (Reading: Chapter 22:363-375)

Oct. 19 - Modes of speciation I
Oct. 21 - Modes of speciation II
Oct. 24 - A general theory of speciation
Oct. 26 - Rates of evolutionary change

Phylogeny Reconstruction (Reading: Chapter 12:213-217)

Oct. 28 - Tracing ancestor-descendant relationships
Oct. 31 - Phenetics and cladistics

Phyletic Patterns; Macroevolution (Readings: 17:278-294 and Chapter 23:381-386)

Nov. 2 - The molecular clock
Nov. 7 - Phyletic patterns and biogeography
Nov. 9 - Introduction to macroevolution

Macroevolutionary Phenomena I (Readings: Chapter 16:264-268; Chapter 17:294-303; Chapter 21)

Nov. 11 - Evolutionary trends and laws
Nov. 14 - Gradualism and punctuated equilibria
Nov. 16 - Adaptation

Macroevolutionary Phenomena II (Reading: Chapter 22:359-363)

Nov. 18 - Ontogeny and phylogeny I: Historical perspective; allometry
Nov. 21 - Ontogeny and phylogeny II: Species selection
Nov. 23 - Thanksgiving Holiday (through Nov. 25)
Nov. 28 - Ontogeny and phylogeny III: Heterochrony
Nov. 30 - Evolutionary innovations and the origin of higher taxa
Dec. 2 - Evolution of Homo sapiens
Dec. 5 - Concluding remarks
Dec. 7 - (no lecture)
Dec. 9 - (no lecture)

Week of 12-17 December: FINAL EXAMINATION


Examination I 100 points
Examination II 100 points
Final Examination (comprehensive) 200 points
TOTAL 400 points

Laboratory Schedule
Zoology/Botany 3041

This Evolution Laboratory is intended to accompany (or follow) the lecture course in Evolution (ZOOL/BOTY 3040). The laboratories are designed to provide you with a practical understanding of principles and concepts introduced in lecture. To get maximum benefit from this experience, I urge you to participate fully in all aspects of each laboratory.

All laboratory sessions will be held in Room 214 in Foster Hall. The format for the laboratories will vary depending on the nature of the material to be covered. For example, the first two labs will be primarily introductory in nature -- these labs will require only your attendance and attention. Laboratories 3-9 will be "hands-on" labs that will involve you directly in exercises or experiments that illustrate particular evolutionary concepts. Six of these labs (see Laboratory Schedule) will require brief lab reports that are to be written in the format described below. Laboratories 10-12 will be discussions of controversial issues in evolution. Prior to these labs, you will prepare a brief (3-page) argumentative essay on the topic to be discussed. The essay format is describe in detail below. The final laboratory will be an open discussion of topics ranging from human origins to man's involvement in the evolutionary process. This lab (and two others) will begin with a short video that introduces the topic to be discussed.

In this course, you will be introduced to a powerful learning tool known as "concept mapping." Use of this tool should improve your understanding of the many complicated and interrelated concepts covered in the laboratories. I encourage you to learn the technique of concept mapping and to use this technique in this, and other, classes. The technique will be described in detail in the first laboratory.

Laboratory Schedule

Date Subject

7 September........... Lab 1 - Organizational meeting. Video: The Evidence for Evolution (30 min.). The use of "concept mapping" as a learning tool in this course.

14 September......... Lab 2 - Introduction to Biodiversity. The role of systematic collections in science. Measuring biological diversity.

21 September......... Lab 3 - Exercises in Taxonomy and Classification. Video: Taxonomy: How Living Organisms Differ (36 min.).

28 September......... Lab 4 - Biometry. Rationale, collection of data, statistical analysis, and interpretation. Lab report due next week. Bring a calculator to next week's lab!!!

5 October.............. Lab 5 - Protein Electrophoresis and Population Genetics. Techniques, genotype analysis, heterozygosity, polymorphism. Lab report due next week. Bring a calculator to this lab!!!

12 October............ Lab 6 - Genetic Drift. The importance of population size in natural populations. Practical introduction to Wright's F-statistics. Lab report due next week. Bring a calculator to this lab!!!

19 October............ Lab 7 - Natural Selection. Experiments that simulate the effects of natural selection and adaptation in changing environments. Lab report due next week. Bring a calculator to this lab!!!

26 October............ Lab 8 - Biogeography. Experiments that simulate the effects of dispersal and vicariance on organismal distribution. Lab report due next week.

2 November........... Lab 9 - Phylogeny Reconstruction. Application of phenetic and cladistic methods to a group of mock "organisms." Lab report due next week. Bring a calculator to this lab!!!

9 November........... Lab 10 - Genetic Engineering and Eugenics. Discussion of scientific and moral issues. Video: Genetic Engineering (35 min.). Argumentative essay due at beginning of this lab.

16 November......... Lab 11 - Evolution and Creation Science. Discussion of the controversy. What is science? What is scientific theory? Argumentative essay due at beginning of this lab.

30 November........ Lab 12 - The Evolution of Homo sapiens. Discussion of human origins and our relationship to the evolutionary process. Video: Evolution and Human Equality (42 min.).

Laboratory Reports

Written lab reports are required for 6 of the 12 scheduled laboratories (see above). Lab reports must be typed (double spaced throughout) or handwritten in a very clear and legible manner. The length of the written report (excluding the Literature Cited section and any figures and tables) cannot exceed 3 double-spaced (typed) pages.

Lab reports must be written in the typical scientific format. In the upper right-hand corner of the first page, place your name, the date, and your lab partner's name (if appropriate). The title of the lab should appear next; the title is centered, with upper-case letters. Following the title, begin your report; do not use a separate cover page. Use the conventional subheadings of INTRODUCTION, METHODS, RESULTS, DISCUSSION, CONCLUSIONS, AND LITERATURE CITED. All major subheadings are in upper-case letters and centered on the page. Be sure to describe your results briefly in the RESULTS section: you may refer the reader to an appropriate table or figure, but do not rely exclusively on tables or figures to convey your results. The LITERATURE CITED section should follow the typical scientific format (see this section of the textbook), and should begin on a separate page. Each table and figure used in your report should be placed on a separate page and should be accompanied by a legend that explains the table or figure clearly. All table and figures are placed together at the end of the report (do not intersperse them with the text of your report). Remember to staple your report (a single staple in the upper left-hand corner) before handing it in. No covers please.

Lab reports are due at the beginning of the following week's lab period. Each report is worth 20 points; one point per day (excluding Saturdays and Sundays) will be deducted for late reports.

Argumentative Essays for Discussion Sessions

Two of the 12 scheduled laboratory meetings will be discussions of controversial issues in evolutionary biology. A short (maximum of 3 pages), argumentative essay is required for each of these labs. An "argumentative essay" is a well written, persuasive essay that provides a reasoned defense of your opinion on the topic. In other words, I want you to take a stand on the issue and defend your position in a logical manner; I do not want you to submit a mere overview of the issue or a simple recitation of the different aspects of the controversy to be discussed. To help you think about the issue, I will provide a short list of suggested readings for each of these discussion sessions.

The essays are due at the beginning of the discussion session that pertains to the topic. Please keep a copy for your use during the discussion. Be prepared to participate in the class discussion-- you grade on the essay will be influenced by classroom participation. Each essay is worth 20 points, and late essays are not accepted.


Lab reports (6 @ 20 points each) 120 points
Argumentative essay (2 @ 20 points each) 40 points
TOTAL 160 points


Bishop, B. A., & Anderson, C. W. (1990). Students' conceptions of natural selection and its role in evolution. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 27, 415-427.

Hafner, M.S. (1994). Evolution laboratory: Laboratory exercises and discussions in evolutionary biology. Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University.

Hartl, D. L. (1988). A primer of population genetics (2nd edition). Sunderland, MA: Sinauer Associates.

Minkoff, E. C. (1983). Evolutionary biology. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company.

Sober, E. (1994). Conceptual issues in evolutionary biology. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.