INSTRUCTOR: Dr. Krushnamegh Kunte
Email: krushnamegh@ncbs.res.in

Phone: NCBS ext. 6085 (office), 6086 (lab), 9483-525-925

DESCRIPTION: This is a 3-credit basic to mid-level course on evolutionary biology, taught every fall semester. It is meant for PhD and Integrated PhD students of biology who may or may not have prior training in evolutionary biology. It is designed to encourage evolutionary thinking among biology students from various disciplines, and to provide academic framework necessary for such thinking. Academic requirements for this course are minimal (see below), so we will start with very basic concepts and slowly ramp up to more advanced topics. At the end of this course the students are expected to have a broad understanding of the concepts and theories in evolutionary biology, including principles of natural and sexual selection, basic population genetics, molecular evolution, phylogenetics, speciation and diversification, co-evolution, life history evolution, and evolutionary developmental biology. The hope is that this broad training will lead to greater interest and research in evolutionary biology in India, and application of evolutionary concepts in other fields of biology such as developmental and cell biology, molecular genetics, and ecology, by students who will subsequently specialize in different fields.

REQUIREMENTS: Understanding of basic Mendelian and molecular genetics, and 10th grade mathematics. Everything else will be explained and discussed as part of the course either during lectures or discussions.

OBJECTIVES: By the end of this course, students will have a good understanding of the following aspects:

  • The theory of evolution by natural selection
  • Mechanisms by which life on earth has evolved, diversified and distributed
  • Evolution of life histories, body form, survival strategies, and mating systems
  • Selective forces that have shaped the genomes and development of organisms
  • Applications of the evolutionary theory in diverse fields such as ecology and conservation, medical sciences and drug development, forensics, and human history
STRUCTURE: This course will consist of classroom lectures and discussion of original research papers. There will be 21 classes of 1.5 hrs each. Each class will be broken in two parts. The first part will be discussion of assigned reading material(s) based on the previous class, and the second part will be a lecture on a new topic. Lectures are expected to be interactive as far as possible. Each student will lead discussion of assigned reading material at least once during the course, but all students will participate in all discussions.

ENROLMENT: A maximum of 30 students may be enrolled in the class. Graduate students will be given priority. The course may be audited by other students but the total number of students (enrolled plus auditing) may be capped in the future at some number if the large size of the class is affecting its performance. Students who audit the course will have limited participation in the class, discussions and other class activities. Exceptions may be made at the discretion of the course instructor. Remember that this course will be offered every fall.

GRADING: Grades will be based on evaluation of:

  • Classroom participation (10%)
  • Discussion of reading material (10%)
  • Two pop-quizzes (20%)
  • Final exam (60%): the final exam will have a combination of multiple-choice and short answer questions


Lecture 1: Diversity and Evolution of Life on Earth

Lecture 2: Principles of Phylogenetics, and the Concept of Species

Lecture 3: Population Genetics I: Variation and Drift

Lecture 4: Population Genetics II: Natural Selection

Lecture 5: Genetical Theory of Natural Selection

Lecture 6: Ecology and Adaptation I: Intraspecific Dynamics

Lecture 7: Ecology and Adaptation II: interspecific Dynamics

Lecture 8: Biogeography and Speciation

Lecture 9: Genetics of Speciation

Lecture 10: Molecular Evolution I

Lecture 11: Molecular Evolution II

Lecture 12: Early Evolution

Lecture 13: Evolution and Development

Lecture 14: Evolution in Variable Environments

Lecture 15: Macroevolution

Lecture 16: Life History Evolution I

Lecture 17: Life History Evolution II

Lecture 18: Evolution of Sex

Lecture 19: Sexual Selection I

Lecture 20: Sexual Selection II

Lecture 21: Co-evolution

Lecture 22: Social Evolution I: Conflict and Cooperation

Lecture 23: Social Evolution II: Eusociality

Lecture 24: Modelling Evolution

Lecture 25: Applications of Evolutionary Biology


RECOMMENDED TEXTBOOKS (in order of preference):
Futuyma, D. J. 2008 and 2013. Evolution. Sinauer Associates, USA. NCBS library has multiple copies.
Ridley, M. 2003. Evolution (3rd ed). Wiley Inc. NCBS library has a copy.
Futuyma, D. J. 1998. Evolutionary Biology (3rd ed). Sinauer Associates, USA. NCBS library has a copy.