About this Course
100% online

100% online

Start instantly and learn at your own schedule.
Flexible deadlines

Flexible deadlines

Reset deadlines in accordance to your schedule.
Available languages

English

Subtitles: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Romanian
100% online

100% online

Start instantly and learn at your own schedule.
Flexible deadlines

Flexible deadlines

Reset deadlines in accordance to your schedule.
Available languages

English

Subtitles: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Romanian

Syllabus - What you will learn from this course

Week
1
Hours to complete
3 hours to complete

Introduction to animal behaviour

In week one of the course, we will introduce the topic of animal behaviour from an evolutionary perspective and explain the importance of asking the right questions about what, how or why animals are behaving. You will learn how to differentiate between proximate and ultimate causes of behaviour and discover some of the methods researchers employ to answer questions about behaviour scientifically. These lectures will form the foundation for topics to come in the later weeks, so please take the time to watch them. ...
Reading
5 videos (Total 62 min), 3 readings, 1 quiz
Video5 videos
2. Asking the right questions13m
3. Correlation, experimentation and comparison14m
4. Tools for studying behaviour15m
5. Natural selection and behavioural adaptations14m
Reading3 readings
Start of course survey10m
Week one outline5m
Week one resourcesm
Quiz1 practice exercise
Week one quiz - practice20m
Week
2
Hours to complete
2 hours to complete

Genes, environments and learning

In week two of the course, we explore the developmental basis of behaviour, focussing on the roles that genes and the environment play in shaping behaviour. Because all behaviours are the product of interactions between genes and the environment, the oft-used term "Nature or Nurture" is unhelpful - there is no such thing as a behaviour that is purely genetically or environmentally determined. The interplay between variable genes and a variable environment helps explain behavioural variation: depending on how and when they interact, different outcomes are possible. Learning provides animals with a mechanism to adjust behaviour adaptively based on experience...
Reading
3 videos (Total 46 min), 2 readings, 1 quiz
Video3 videos
2. How do genetic and environmental influences shape behaviour?18m
3. Learning behaviour17m
Reading2 readings
Week two outline10m
Week two resourcesm
Quiz1 practice exercise
Week 2 quiz - graded20m
Week
3
Hours to complete
3 hours to complete

Finding food and avoiding predators

Week three of the course will look at factors that influence how individuals make decisions as they go about their day to day lives, particularly around finding food and avoiding predators. We will introduce the use of mathematical models for predicting how animals will behave under certain circumstances. We also consider how interactions between predators and prey can lead to co-evolutionary 'arms races'....
Reading
6 videos (Total 93 min), 2 readings, 1 quiz
Video6 videos
2. Foraging and optimality11m
3. Resource Competition22m
4. Animal contests & game theory19m
5. Anti-predator behaviour12m
6. Predators vs prey: evolutionary arms races14m
Reading2 readings
Week three outline10m
Week three resourcesm
Quiz1 practice exercise
Week three quiz - graded20m
Week
4
Hours to complete
3 hours to complete

Communication

This week, we consider the topic of animal communication. We explore some of the different modalities (visual, auditory, olfactory, electrosensory and tactile) animals use to communicate with each other, and the abiotic (structural) and biotic (predators, parasites) challenges animals face in transmitting their signals. We discuss the difference between signals and cues, and reflect on under what circumstances natural selection might favour signals that are honest or deceptive....
Reading
5 videos (Total 69 min), 2 readings, 1 quiz
Video5 videos
2. Communication and signal design16m
3. Signal reliability - what keeps signals honest?13m
4. Deceptive signals: mimicry and sensory exploitation13m
5. Eavesdropping13m
Reading2 readings
Week four outline10m
Week four resourcesm
Quiz1 practice exercise
Week four quiz - graded20m

Instructors

Avatar

Raoul Mulder

Associate Professor
Avatar

Mark Elgar

Professor of Evolutionary Biology
Department of Zoology

About The University of Melbourne

The University of Melbourne is an internationally recognised research intensive University with a strong tradition of excellence in teaching, research, and community engagement. Established in 1853, it is Australia's second oldest University....

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Once you enroll for a Certificate, you’ll have access to all videos, quizzes, and programming assignments (if applicable). Peer review assignments can only be submitted and reviewed once your session has begun. If you choose to explore the course without purchasing, you may not be able to access certain assignments.

  • No. The course deals with wild animals in their natural environment.

More questions? Visit the Learner Help Center.