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Module BSX-3167:
Insect Behaviour & Evolution

Module Facts

Run by School of Natural Sciences

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 2

Organiser: Dr Aaron Comeault

Overall aims and purpose

This 20 credit module aims to provide an overview of insect biology, developmental processes, and evolution. We will take an integrative approach, considering mechanisms at the level of genes, organs, individuals and populations. The course will be delivered through a mixture of lectures and practical classes. Laboratory classes will give you hands-on experience with key techniques used to study model insect systems and to analyse molecular genetic data to better understand the processes that govern the evolution of insect diversity. You will gain knowledge and understanding of the diversity of developmental processes found in insects, as well as the neurobiological basis of key insect behaviours and diversity. You will develop an appreciation of key mechanisms that integrate neurobiology and evolutionary processes that underly insect speciation and adaptation. Finally, you will gain knowledge in applying cutting-edge genetic manipulation technologies in insect research.

Course content

Topics covered may include:

  • Comparative developmental biology and diversity of insects
  • Sensory neurobiology and behaviour
  • Mechanisms of speciation and adaptation
  • Evolutionary genetics of insect diversification
  • Genome manipulation and applied insect research

The module will allow you to apply modern biology techniques to more fully understand insect diversity, morphology, and links between genes, morphology, and behaviour. You will also develop a quantitative understanding of the evolutionary processes governing insect biodiversity. You will therefore have the opportunity to develop or refine important practical skills in biology and evolutionary genetics/genomics and will be exposed to relevant primary literature through the module.

Assessment Criteria


Grades B- to B+

Express a thorough conceptual knowledge of much of the core material presented in the module, and have a competent and detailed ability to critically evaluate the principles of insect development and evolutionary genetics. Some detailed examples are provided, and are interpreted correctly. Some evidence of further reading and ability to integrate material from the full range of the lecture and practical content. Written work shows some evidence of problem solving and presents sufficient detail that most of the experiments/steps could be repeated using this alone.


Grades A- to A*

Demonstrate comprehensive conceptual and factual knowledge, critical understanding of theory, evidence of extra reading of primary literature and the ability to integrate this extra knowledge in a relevant manner. Extensive use of examples, including those not presented in class. Written work shows clear evidence of additional reading or research, and records steps taken in solving identified problems or trouble-shooting techniques. Experiments are recorded in a highly detailed and logical manner and could be used to repeat every step with no additional information.


Grades D- to D+

The student should be able to express a basic conceptual knowledge of the majority of the core material presented in the module, and be able to appreciate the complexity of insect behaviours at multiple levels, from genetics through to ecology. Provides little to no examples, or interprets them incorrectly. Written work presents at least a superficial account of all major steps.

C- to C+

Grades C- to C+.

Convey a basic understanding of much of the core material presented in the module. Able to evaluate basic principles of insect development and evolutionary genetics, but lacking critical details and the ability to synthesize across different studies. Some, but limited evidence of broad reading in relevant fields. Written work covers essential details, but lacking in integration across topics and problem solving.

Learning outcomes

    • Describe the diversity of sensory mechanisms possessed by insects, and identify how these play a role in insect evolution and diversification
    • Explain the key models and techniques used to study insect biology and population genetics, including the importance of in-the-field collections and experiments.
    • Demonstrate practical skills in developmental biology and population genetics
    • Be able to apply background knowledge and independent research in order to interpret experimental results and solve problems, and to understand and critique relevant primary literature
    • Describe the links between genes, morphology, behaviour, and ecology

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
EXAM Final Examination

Final exam consisting of both multiple choice and short answer questions to assess conceptual and critical knowledge of the core materials taught throughout the course.

REPORT Practical Report I

This report will be completed after a set of laboratory practical experiments designed to explore insect development and behaviour.

REPORT Practical Report II

Practical report II will be developed around population genetic data used to study insect diversification.

FORMATIVE ASSESSMENT Field methods in insect research

Students will travel to Henfaes field station and implement a suite of approaches to insect collection to survey the diversity of insects found on site.


Teaching and Learning Strategy


20 x one hour in class lectures introducing and exploring topics covered in the module.

Practical classes and workshops

The students will conduct two separate practical exercises, each consisting of two 3-hour practical sessions.


Students will travel to Henfaes and collect and identify the local insect community.

Private study

Students are expected to conduct directed study outside of contact-hours. During this time students will be (1) reading the primary literature addressing topics covered in the module, (2) analyse data and write up practical reports, and (3) revise for final examination.


Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Numeracy - Proficiency in using numbers at appropriate levels of accuracy
  • Computer Literacy - Proficiency in using a varied range of computer software
  • Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
  • Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
  • Presentation - Able to clearly present information and explanations to an audience. Through the written or oral mode of communication accurately and concisely.
  • Teamwork - Able to constructively cooperate with others on a common task, and/or be part of a day-to-day working team

Subject specific skills

  • Recognize and apply appropriate theories and concepts from a range of disciplines.
  • Appreciate the interdisciplinary and/or reciprocal nature of relationships within the subject area.
  • Understand the provisional nature of information and appreciate competing and alternative explanations.
  • Appreciation of the complexity and diversity of processes through the study of relevant systems.
  • Apply subject knowledge to the understanding and addressing of problems.
  • Recognize the moral, ethical and social issues relating to the subject.
  • Develop and identify research question(s) and/or hypotheses as the basis for investigation.
  • Conduct fieldwork and/or laboratory work competently with awareness of appropriate risk assessment and ethical considerations
  • Consider issues from a range of interdisciplinary perspectives.
  • Collect, analyse and interpret primary and/or secondary data using appropriate qualitative and/or quantitative techniques.
  • Prepare effective maps, diagrams and visualizations.
  • Undertake field and/or laboratory studies to ensure competence in basic experimental and/or fieldwork skills.
  • Engagement with current subject developments and their application.
  • Engage in debate and/or discussion with specialists and non-specialists using appropriate language.
  • Demonstrate the independence and skills required for continuing professional development


Resource implications for students

Resources above will enable student learning using a diverse range of approaches and facilitate their engagement with module content.

Talis Reading list

Reading list


Courses including this module

Optional in courses: