Biology 357: Evolutionary Ecology
Biology 357: Evolutionary Ecology -- Fall 2001

Tuesday-Thursday 12:30-2PM, Welch 2.304

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

Email Addresses: Eric R. Pianka (
Scott Solomon (

Office Hours: Eric (PAT 125, Tue-Wed 2-3)
or by appointment (471-7472 or email)

Scott (PAT 642, Tuesdsay 2-3)
or by appointment (471-7619 or by email)

Text: Pianka, Evolutionary Ecology, 6th ed., (read pp. 1-14, 110-174)

Student Evaluations of some past 357 classes

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: Thursday, 19 September 2002

Second Exam: Thursday, 24 October 2002

Third Exam: Thursday, 5 December 2002

Final Exam: Tuesday, 11 December 2002, 7-10 PM

Download sample first exam

Download sample second exam

Download sample third exam

How to get straight A's

Letter Grade:

Your lowest hour exam will be thrown out (no "make up" exams!)

Your best two exams will each count 25% of your course letter grade.

The comprehensive Final will count as 50% of your course grade.

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

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.