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EBC Trends in Development and Evolution

Vak 2011-2012

Admission requirements

This course can be attended by first, second or third year MSc students.


Developmental processes are shaped by evolutionary processes, but can in turn also shape evolutionary changes in morphology and behaviour. The study of these relationships is a rapidly developing and prominent area of research, characterized by rapid advances in both theoretical thinking and experimental approaches and possibilities. It is broad ranging: from the molecular and genetic mechanisms underlying variation and diversification of morphologies (often indicated as the study of ‘evo-devo’), gene-environment interactions in phenotypic development, the mechanisms underlying epigenetic inheritance, to gene-culture co-evolution and cultural evolution as initiated by learning processes and behavioural development. This course will give students an extensive introduction in the area, spanning the levels from molecular mechanisms to organism-environment interactions, which will give it a unique and broad integrative scope. It will deal with animal and plant development. Knowledge about molecular developmental processes also has important applied biomedical implications, which will also be given attention. Apart from being of general interest, the course also provides an excellent basis for MSc-research projects on various topics in evo-devo, both at IBL, NCB Naturalis and the VU Amsterdam.

Learning goals

Course objectives:
The aim of this course is to provide students with a comprehensive overview of the area and show them the major theoretical paradigms. They will be trained in making connections between various approaches and levels of explanation; to formulate research questions, think critically, discuss concepts and ideas, and to present their views in various ways.

Final qualifications:
Students should be able to provide an overview of major theoretical paradigms in the field of evodevo, understand relevant literature and discuss and present their own view on particular topics after having followed this course.


The time schedule will be provided at the start of the course on Blackboard.

Mode of instruction

Morning Lectures
Each day (9.00 – c. 12.30) will consist of 2-3 hours contact time, in which the teacher will give lectures explaining the concepts of the subject, and based on the literature provided by the speaker on blackboard. For most afternoons (see timetable) the students should study the lectures and articles and prepare for the round table discussions.

Round table discussions
The round table discussions on each of the first three Fridays, will be based on the literature and lectures of that week. The teachers will make a note of the contribution of each student to the discussion and this will form part of the overall grade.

At the end of the last week, each student must have submitted an essay by email to
The essay should be chosen from a list of titles provided by emailing their top three choices in order of preference to and the titles will be allocated on a ‘first come, first served’ basis. The topics covered in the lectures of the course. It should be submitted in electronic format (in most cases that will mean a word file). It should be no more than 1500 words long excluding references. Figures may be included, but please do not copy unreferenced pictures from the internet (this is grey literature, i.e. material that has not been peer reviewed by experts). You should get them from original articles at or pubmed or scan them from the scientific literature.

Assessment method

Testing will be done based on an essay that has to be handed in on the last day of the course (60%) and participation in the round table discussions (40%).


Only Blackboard will be used. Because of the diversity of the subjects, there is no set text book.

Reading list

Reviews and research articles. Presentations and pdf’s will be posted on Blackboard.


via USIS

Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Prospective students website for more information on how to apply.

Contact information

Dr. B. Gravendeel;