Animal Behaviour

This course will help you understand the remarkable behaviors of wild animals from an evolutionary perspective.  [Image: Peacock spider. Photo by Jürgen Otto, Manakin bird footage (Ex-Riddle of the Sexes) reproduced with permission, courtesy of BBC Worldwide Ltd]

About The Course

Many of us derive inspiration from watching natural history documentaries and their astounding catalogue of wild animal behaviours.  In this course, we will explore how scientists study animal behaviour, and in particular how behaviour is shaped by the evolutionary forces of natural and sexual selection. Topics include resource acquisition; avoiding enemies; mate choice and sexual conflict; cues, signals and communication; parental care and social behaviour; and the role of genes, environments and learning in regulating behavioural diversity.  We draw on examples from across the animal kingdom to illustrate the complex mechanisms underlying adaptations, and complement these with natural history videos that highlight key concepts. We evaluate the scientific rigour of studies used to test theory, and highlight the often ingenious methods adopted by researchers to understand animal behaviour.

Frequently Asked Questions

What resources will I need for this class?
For this course, all you need is an Internet connection, copies of the texts (most of which can be obtained for free), and the time to read, write, discuss, and enjoy some extraordinary accounts of fascinating animal behaviour.

Does this course cover domestic animal behaviour (e.g. cats and dogs)?
No. The course deals with wild animals in their natural environment.

Will I get a Statement of Accomplishment after completing this class?
A Statement of Accomplishment will be offered to those students who successfully pass the assessments as laid out in the syllabus. A verified Statement of Accomplishment will be offered to those students who enroll in the course using Signature Track and who successfully pass the assessments.

Recommended Background

Apart from enthusiasm for animal behaviour, there is no background required for this course.