Degree course: 
Corso di First cycle degree in BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES
Academic year when starting the degree: 
Academic year in which the course will be held: 
Course type: 
Supplementary compulsory subjects
First Semester
Standard lectures hours: 
Detail of lecture’s hours: 
Lesson (48 hours)

Previous knowledge on animal biodiversity, genetics, and molecular biology is required.

Final Examination: 

Exam sessions are foreseen in the number planned by the Degree Course. The examination consists of an oral interview (two questions) and the outcome of the examination will be marked out of thirty. The acquisition by the student of knowledge concerning the processes that have led to the evolution of animal biodiversity will be assessed. The evaluation will take into account the capacity of learning, consultation, and processing of bibliography, and the ability to critically discuss and comment the information acquired during the course.

Voto Finale

The course aims at illustrating the evolutionary processes and patterns generated by these, with the main objective of developing a scientific view of biological diversity that goes beyond the mere description. The pattern of diversity, the structure-function relationships and adaptations of organisms to their environment will be the main topics of discussion in the light of evolutionary mechanisms. The student will acquire knowledge on some fundamental topics for a biologist as the theory of evolution by natural selection, the concept of fitness and adaptation, the genetic basis of evolutionary change, speciation, molecular evolution, the principles of systematics, paleontology, macroevolutionary patterns, the phenomena of extinction and the relationship between developmental biology and evolutionary processes. Through discussion of the major themes of evolutionary biology, the student will understand the reasons that make this discipline the central unifying theme of biology. Didactic material will allow the student to evaluate and elaborate the international literature on evolution.

The students will be able to describe the processes that have led to the evolution of animal biodiversity, to evaluate the organization of animals, and to correlate the organization plan of the main body structures to adaptive and evolutionary aspects. They will also acquire the key concepts, criteria, and methods of evolutionary biology, knowledge on the importance of evolution, and skills for the analysis of the processes that regulate the evolution of organisms.

- Introduction to the course, the history of evolutionary thought, the background of Darwin, Lamarck's theory of evolution, the origin of species
- The post-Darwin period, Darwin's legacy, examples of evolution/natural selection, evidence on evolution, evidence against evolution, intelligent design
- Population dynamics, the Hardy-Weinberg law, genetic drift
- Key factors related to microevolution, mutations, natural selection
- Species and speciation, pre-zygotic and post-zygotic constraints, allopatric speciation, hybrid zones, sympatric speciation, anagenesis and cladogenesis, the phyletic gradualism, the punctuated equilibrium
- The origin of life on earth: evidence and hypothesis, RNA world
- LUCA, the tree of life, the evolution of eukaryotes (evolution of mitochondria, nucleus, and cytoskeleton)
- Multicellularity and the fossil record, the Ediacaran fauna, the Cambrian explosion, continental drift, mass extinctions
- Systematics and phylogeny, phylogenetic trees (premises and related issues), DNA barcoding
- The new animal phylogeny: a comparison with traditional phylogeny
- Historical introduction to Evo-Devo, heterochrony and heterotopy, the animal models used in Evo-Devo
- The main themes of Evo-Devo (modular architecture and serial counterparts, homeotic genes, body-building gene)
- The genetics of Evo-Devo, Big bang of animal evolution (arthropods and vertebrates)
- Little bangs of animal evolution (evolution of insect limbs and wings, butterfly wings, melanism)
- Human evolution
- Evolution of genes and genomes
- Evolution of cell death processes
- Coevolution


The course is organized in lectures. Powerpoint presentations will be used during lectures.

Upon appointment via e-mail (