MODULE DESCRIPTION 2017-2018


SPRING SEMESTER 20 CREDITS



AAP3010 PRIMATE AND HOMINID EVOLUTION



CO-ORDINATOR: KEVIN KUYKENDALL
OTHER TUTORS: PIA NYSTROM


MODULE OUTLINE

This module is designed for students interested in primate and human evolution, and related fields such as archaeology, palaeontology, biology, and zoology. Through the use of standard lecture and seminar format, as well as Inquiry Based Learning (IBL) approaches, the module will provide a detailed overview of current research in primate and hominid behaviour, life history, systematics and evolutionary biology. The scope includes description and discussion of key fossil groups, and ranges from the earliest extinct primate species currently known to the earliest populations of Homo sapiens. The significance of these fossils will be discussed in the context of behavioural and adaptive models and evolutionary processes such as natural selection, gene flow, and extinction. Students are expected to participate in class discussions relating to lecture topics, and to participate in other in-class learning activities such as practical sessions. Additional learning materials will be provided through MOLE. This module will provide students with the detailed knowledge, conceptual understanding and critical abilities needed to pursue postgraduate study in palaeoanthropology and related fields.


BROAD ACADEMIC AIMS AND PRINCIPLES OF THE UNIT

This module aims to provide students with a comprehensive overview of the primate and hominid fossil record, and demonstrate how the interpretation of fossils informs our understanding of primate origins and diversity (including humans). Classes will cover the description and comparison of the available fossil record as a basis for further study, together with the required background for interpretation and synthesis of fossil materials, including such topics as evolutionary theory, site formation and taphonomy, taxonomy and phylogeny, and evolutionary models explaining major events in primate and human evolution.


MEASUREABLE LEARNING OUTCOMES

By the end of this module students should be able to demonstrate:
a) that they possess sufficient detailed knowledge and understanding to be able to describe and discuss the available primate fossil record; b) an ability to summarise interpretations presented by scientists about different primate and hominid adaptations; and, c) a critical assessment of the major explanatory models in palaeoanthropology for primate and hominid taxonomic groups. Students will understand the methods to make interpretations about function, taxonomy, evolution, etc. based on fossil evidence. Students will also be able to critically evaluate information about primate and human evolution that has been presented in popular media such as magazine articles, books, and TV programmes, with particular attention to its scientific rigour and content.


PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT SKILLS ACQUIRED

Ability to critically evaluate scientific evidence; knowledge of methods for collection and analyses of data; developing knowledge of scientific methods used in palaeoanthropology; skills for library research, group discussion and debate, writing critically.


STUDENT ATTENDANCE AND INDEPENDENT STUDY

Type Hours
Lectures 6
Seminars 6
Practicals (incl. tutorials) 7
Independent/Group Study (including preparation for assessments) 181


ASSESSMENT

Method % of marks Length / words
Class Presentation 20% 15 minutes
Mid Term 30% 1000
End of Term 50% 2000


EXAMPLE LECTURE/SEMINAR TITLES

  • Primate origins & systematics
  • Theories about primate origins
  • Primate and hominid cranial osteology
  • Comparative anatomy of locomotion and bipedalism
  • Comparative behavioural studies of primate locomotion
  • Primate and hominid postcranial skeleton
  • Extant primate diet adaptations
  • How do we infer diet in fossil primates – isotopes, dental morphology and wear, diet reconstruction
  • Primate dentition Practical
  • Tool using in non-human primates. The earliest archaeological record of tool using in early hominins
  • Are studies of tool use in extant primates good models for understanding tool use in early hominids
  • Ancient DNA in primate and hominid evolution
  • Molecular phylogenies for primates and hominids
  • Life history in extant primates, and the evolution of hominid life history
  • Current issues in primate and hominid evolution