2023-2024 / BIOL2037-1

Introduction to evolutionary biology


30h Th, 20h Pr, 1d FW

Number of credits

 Bachelor in biology4 crédits 


Nicolas Magain

Language(s) of instruction

French language

Organisation and examination

Teaching in the second semester


Schedule online

Units courses prerequisite and corequisite

Prerequisite or corequisite units are presented within each program

Learning unit contents

One aspect of biology is understanding the diversity and functioning of organisms in the present time. Another aspect is to understand how today's diversity has been shaped over time. This course is part of this second aspect.

The aim of the course is to give an introduction to evolutionary biology, to answer questions such as: Why are there so many species on earth? Which groups are the richest in cash and why? Where is most of the biodiversity on earth and why? How has current diversity been structured over time? How do we study evolution today, and how did we arrive at current theories?

Among the themes we will discuss

-Historical aspects: from Darwin to the neo-Darwinian synthesis

-The appearance of life on earth and its diversification

-The great extinction crises

-Introduction to the concept of phylogenetic trees and the methods to build them

-Some major evolutionary theories (punctuated equilibria, the Red Queen, the concept of neutrality)

-Elements of population genetics

-Elements of biogeography, phylogeography and chorology

-Structuring of biodiversity on earth

This course therefore constitutes a basis for many disciplines which will be studied in depth during the master's courses such as biogeography, phylogenetic methods, and the various courses in taxonomy and phylogenetics, and population genetics.

Practical lab activities will also be dedicated to assessing biodiversity in our regions. In particular, identifications of plants with floras and dissecting scopes, as well as identifying trees and shrubs through stems and leaves.

Learning outcomes of the learning unit

The objectives of the course are to:

- Build an idea of the mechanisms and events that led to the presence of current organisms on earth

- Familiarize yourself with the concepts of evolutionary biology that will be constantly requested during many courses of the master

- Become familiar with the methods and recent advances in the field of evolutionary biology

-Be able to identify plants with a flora, and recognize trees and shrubs

Prerequisite knowledge and skills

No definite prerequisite as this is an introductory course, but notions of biodiversity, taxonomy and general ecology (in particular those given in the course 'Biodiversity and ecology', Block 2 of the bachelor's degree in biological sciences) will be useful

Practical sessions are a follow-up on what has been organized in the first two years.

Planned learning activities and teaching methods

- Lectures alternating theoretical explanations with case studies to familiarize oneself with the format of scientific articles, and recent advances.

-Practical work consisting in identifying the diversity of plant organisms thanks to the Belgian Blue Flora

-Walks to discover trees and shrubs.

Mode of delivery (face to face, distance learning, hybrid learning)

Face-to-face course

Additional information:

Attendance at practical work is compulsory. Otherwise, the student will be declared "inadmissible" for the exam. In case of absence, justification will be sent to lea.mouton@uliege.be

The majority of theoretical courses take the form of lectures with power point and video support. 

The course also includes practical work to determine flowering plants in our regions (exercises based on the "Blue Flora" by J. Lambinon et al. or the Ecological Flora of Belgium). It also includes training in "instant" identification without documentation of trees and shrubs in our regions (with or without flowers or fruits); to do this, walks will be organized in the Sart Tilman university domain and its surroundings. to identify the trees and shrubs are identified.

Recommended or required readings

Slideshows will be available on eCampus

Exam(s) in session

Any session

- In-person

written exam ( open-ended questions )

Additional information:

Student assessment consists of

- a written exam in session, on the subjects of the theoretical course

- a practical examination consisting of (a) the determination of flowering plants, with only Belgium's "Blue Flora" available or Ecological Flora or Belgium. (b) instant identification without documentation of a few representatives of a batch of 4trees and shrubs from our regions (list available on eCampus, native or commonly planted)

To be successful, you need at least 10/20 for the whole course and at least 8/20 in each of its parts. The weighting is as follows: theory 50%;  flore 40%; trees and shrubs 10%.

Work placement(s)

See french text

Organisational remarks and main changes to the course


See French text

Association of one or more MOOCs