Homepage » Courses Offered » Undergraduate Studies » 5th 13B015 Evolutionary Biology


Compulsory/Elective Code Semester Lectures Practicals Credits ECTS
Compulsory 13B015 5th 5 Hrs/Wk - 5 7,0

1. To provide a core and advanced course introducing students to the principles of Evolutionary Biology.

2. To prepare students for an integrated knowledge and appreciation of Biology in general.

3. To show how all various life forms interweave with each other in a well organised, hierarchical web of life.

4. To outline the evolutionary relationships and their underlying selective mechanisms on a molecular, biochemical and genetic levels.

5. To investigate the dynamic nature of living systems and the change of their form and function through geological time


At the end of the course students should:

a) Have acquired an enhanced, deep knowledge on the evolution of living organisms.

b) Be able to develop cogent and critical arguments based on the unifying concepts of the Science of Evolution.

c) Be able to handle, analyze, assess and report on data, observations and experiments related to various levels of evolutionary processes.

d) Have made steps towards respecting life and natural environment as well as exercising self assessment and criticism.


Course lecturers are grouped along the following units:

Origins of Evolutionary Biology and the trail of evolutionary thinking (10 Hrs): Defining the Science of Evolution - Epistemological background - Historical overview - Evolutionary theories - Lamarckism, Darwinism, Modern Evolutionary Synthesis (Neodarwinism) - Current dimensions.

From Big Bang to First Cells (12 Hrs): The creation of the Universe and of the Earth - The pre-life setting - Chance, natural selection, order and disorder - Abiotic synthesis of organic matter, drawbacks - Abiotic synthesis of polymers and supramolecular complexes - RNA world - The RNP world and the transition to the DNA world.

The fundamental level of organism determination (10 Hrs): The modern organism genome and its possible structure in the 'first' organism - Different views regarding the formation of eukaryotic cells - Levels of discrimination among different organisms, the relativity of hierarchies, cladistic and phenetic approaches, cladograms - The global evolutionary dendrogram, Kingdoms or Domains, the molecular approach - Placing a root node in the global dendrogram.

Time and life forms (16 Hrs): The concept of evolutionary time - Fundamentals of the modern geological approach, dating methods - Stromatolites and fossils - Key evolutionary events in the pre-Cambrian era - The Cambrian speciation exlosion - Factors enhancing the diversifying species radiation - The importance of ring species, missing rings or punctuated equilibrium and stasis; - Patterns and mechanisms of speciation - Mass extinctions - Crucial events in plant evolution - Microevolution and adaptations in the plant world - Human evolution.

Evolutionary mechanisms (17 Hrs): Elements of population genetics, Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium, linkage equilibrium and disequilibrium - Mutations, limitations imposed by the genetic code - The concepts of evolutionary divergence and convergence - Gene duplications, or deletions, unequal crossing over, DNA replication slippage, transposition and retrotransposition - Convergence mechanisms through mutual and non-mutual recombinations - Probabilities for the maintenance and dispersal of a novel mutation - Natural selection through the prism of determinism, fitness, selection index, directional selection and codominance or overdominance - Action patterns of natural selection - Random genetic drift and stochastic processes, probabilities, time and rate of attaining a steady state - Estimating phylogenetic distances.

  Panayiotis Pafilis, Professor of Animal Diversity (Coordinator) - Diamantis C. Sideris, Associate Professor in Biochemistry of Eukaryotic Organisms - Costas Thanos, Professor Emeritus of Plant Physiology - Efstratios Valakos, Professor of Comparative Animal Physiology - Ecophysiology - Aristeidis Parmakelis, Associate Professor of Biodiversity and Population Ecology - Vassili Kouvelis, Assistant Professor of Genetics and Biotechnology
  Students are assessed through a final written examination
  If you require more information, please contact the Course Coordinator, Prof. Panayiotis Pafilis at: Tel: +30 210 727 4544 - Email: ppafil[at]biol.uoa[dot]gr