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Biology 357: Evolutionary Ecology
Biology 357: Evolutionary Ecology -- Fall 2011

Tuesday-Thursday 1230 to 2PM, RLM 5.104

Instructors: Eric R. Pianka (Prof.) and xxyy (T. A.)

Email Addresses: Eric R. Pianka (
xxyy (

Office Hours: Eric (PAT 125, Mon., Fri. 1-2)
or by appointment (471-7472 or email)

xxyy (Pat xxx, Thurs. 9-11)
or by appointment (471-4xxx or by e-mail)

Download Syllabus

Text: Pianka, Evolutionary Ecology, 6th or 7th ed.

Read On Line at Blackboard (link)
Read Chapter 1, pp. 1-14,
and Chapter 8, pp. 110-174

Discussion Sections:

Wednesday 10-11, RLM 6.122
Wednesday 11-12, RLM 6.118
Friday 8-19, MEZ 1.102
Friday 10-11, UTC 1.118

Student Evaluations of some past 357 classes

Please read the following essays:

Nee's commentary, Nature
Klinkenborg's Depth of Time, NY Times
Morrison's Evolution's Problem Gamblers
Scientific Methods
Natural Selection
Human Instincts
Our Hunter-Gatherer Heritage
Population Growth
Evolution of Uncaring Humanoids
The Vanishing Book of Life on Earth
Global Warming
Intelligent Design?
Space Travel
Peak Oil

Suggested Additional Reading:

Case, An Illustrated Guide to Theoretical Ecology (read pp. 79-100)

Ginzburg and Golenberg, Lectures in Theoretical Population Biology
(read pp. 1-5 and 193-219)

Gotelli, A Primer of Ecology (read pp. 2-85)

Exams: Three in-class exams during the semester (only the best two will be counted) plus one comprehensive final, scheduled as follows:

First Exam: 22 Sept.

Second Exam: 27 Oct.

Third Exam: 1 Dec.

Final Exam: 9 December, 9-12 AM

Download Sample Exams

Letter Grade:

Your lowest hour exam will be thrown out. Your best two exams will each count
25% of your course letter grade.

The comprehensive Final will count as 50% of your course grade.
NOTE: The Final Exam is scheduled from 9-12 AM on Friday, Dec. 9th, 2011.

These four exams are the only way to make your grade. No "extra" points are available.
No "make up" exams! Final grades are FINAL, carved in stone, and will not be changed.

UT's "new" plus/minus grading system will be employed.

How to get straight A's

Download Class Handouts

Download PPTs of Class Lecture notes

Course Outline, Biology 357: Evolutionary Ecology


Scaling and the hierarchical structure of biology, levels of approach in biology, domain of ecology, definitions and ground work; anthropocentrism, the importance of wild organisms in pristine natural environments, the urgency of basic ecological research; scientific methodology; models; multiple causality; limiting factors, tolerance limits, the principle of allocation; natural selection, self-replicating molecular assemblages; units of selection.

Principles of Population Ecology

Life tables and schedules of reproduction; net reproductive rate and reproductive value; stable age distribution; Leslie matrices; intrinsic rate of increase; evolution of reproductive tactics; avian clutch size; evolution of old age and death rates; population growth and regulation -- Pearl-Verhulst logistic equation; density dependence and independence; r and K selection; population "cycles," cause and effect; use of space (vagility, home range, territoriality, foraging tactics); evolution of sex; sex ratio; mating systems; sexual selection; fitness and the individual's status in the population; kin selection, reciprocal altruism, parent-offspring conflict.

Interactions Between Populations

Parasitism, Commensalism, Mutualisms, etc.; Direct versus indirect and complex population interactions. Competition and Niche Theory: Lotka-Volterra equations and competition theory; diffuse competition; niche overlap and competition; niche dimensionality; niche breadth (specialization versus generalization); evolutionary consequences; laboratory and field experiments; other evidence from nature; future prospects. Predation: Theory; predator-prey oscillations; aspect diversity; "prudent" predation and optimal yield; evolutionary consequences; predator escape tactics; adaptive coloration; mimicry; warning calls; coevolution; plant-herbivore interactions and plant-apparency theory; selected other observations and experiments.

The Role of Phylogenetics in Ecology

Phylogenetic systematics, independent contrasts, the comparative method, evolutionary ecomorphology, recovering the history of the vanishing book of life on Earth

Community Ecology

Macrodescriptors; compartmentation in communities (trophic levels, guild structure, and food webs); connectance; pyramids of numbers, biomass, and energy; energy flow and ecological energetics; secondary succession and transition matrices; community matrix; saturation with individuals and with species; species diversity; diversity of lowland rainforest trees; community stability; chaotic attractors; evolutionary convergence and ecological equivalents; evolution of communities; pseudo-communities.

Island Biogeography and Conservation Biology

Classical biogeography; biogeographic "rules;" continental drift; island biogeography; species-area relationships; equilibrium theory; compression hypothesis; islands as ecological experiments: Krakatau, Darwin's finches, Hawaiian Drosophilidae, other examples; metapopulations, conservation biology, human impacts on natural ecosystems, hot spots of biodiversity, applied biogeography and the design of nature preserves.

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Last updated 30 June 2011 by Eric R. Pianka