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The University of Southampton

BIOL1029 Origins of Biodiversity

Module Overview

In this module you will explore and explain patterns of global biodiversity over space and time, affecting a wide variety of lineages. We will begin as 18th century natural historians, considering the impact of new discoveries, due to the invention of the microscope and a growing fossil record, which led Charles Darwin to propose a tree of life and evolution through natural selection as the mechanism for descent with modification. We will then consider the impact of the work of Mendel to explain the process of inheritance, followed by the discovery of the structure of DNA and the mechanism of genetic inheritance within the cell. This will allow us to consider biodiversity from the perspective of Neo-Darwinists, following the modern synthesis at the start of the twentieth century, with an appreciation of the effect of selection at different ecological levels, from cells to individuals to populations to communities to ecosystem level. We will end as 21st century biologists, applying what we have learned about evolution and ecology to investigating and understanding the world around us, using the present to explain the past and the future. We will apply our knowledge of population and ecosystem level effects to explain longer term evolutionary ecology trends, including predicting future changes.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • Explain the evolutionary relationships among the major kingdoms of life
  • Demonstrate knowledge of the basic genetic principles relating to the evolution organisms
  • Describe the distribution of species in relation to abiotic and biotic factors, and at various ecological scales (from individual to population to community to ecosystem)
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Describe and compare the structural and functional organisation of the major kingdoms of Life, and how these relate to their classification and identification
  • Demonstrate knowledge of population ecology including population dynamics and estimates of population size
  • Describe and exemplify patterns of distribution of organisms in relation to biotic and abiotic factors
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • The ability to explain biological phenomena at a variety of levels (from molecular to ecological systems) and how evolutionary theory is relevant to their area of study
  • Demonstrate an appreciation of the development of underlying concepts and theories to explain the causes of current global biodiversity, as new discoveries are made
  • Consider the application of macroevolution, microevolution and macroecology for the conservation of global biodiversity


Diversity of life – characteristics of taxon within 5 kingdoms Evidence for descent with modification Abiotic selection pressures – global impact, past, present and future Biomes – distribution of plants today, and in the past Mendelian inheritance – qualitative traits Population genetics – epistatis, pleiotropy, gene-centric selection, drift, migration Coevolution and types of mutualistic relationships (competition, mutualism, predation/parasitism) Adaptation and extinction Quantitative genetics and Genotype by environment interactions Types of ecology: Population ecology, Community ecology, Conservation ecology, Behavioural ecology, Landscape ecology. The Anthropocene and predicting the future

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Lectures Practicals Field trip

Independent Study87
Total study time150



MethodPercentage contribution
Field/laboratory/practical exercises 25%
Multiple choice Test  (1 hours) 25%
Written assessment 50%


MethodPercentage contribution
Coursework 25%
Written assessment 75%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External


Costs associated with this module

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

In addition to this, students registered for this module typically also have to pay for:


There are no additional costs associated with this module

Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at

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