BSc Biomedical Sciences with Industrial/Professional Experience

Year of entry: 2022

Course unit details:
Primate Evolution and Human Origins

Course unit fact file
Unit code EART36202
Credit rating 10
Unit level Level 6
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by
Available as a free choice unit? No

Overview

This research-led unit is taught by staff actively investigating aspects of primate biology and human morphological and behavioural evolution. The unit will cover a broad range of evidence and approaches including the morphology, behaviour and phylogenetic relationships of extinct and extant primates; the origins of key hominin adaptations such as bipedalism and enhanced cognitive capacities; and the major evolutionary transformations in morphology and behaviour in the human lineage.

This course unit detail provides the framework for delivery in 20/21 and may be subject to change due to any additional Covid-19 impact.  Please see Blackboard / course unit related emails for any further updates.

Aims

This unit reviews the palaeontological, archaeological and genetic evidence for primate and human evolution with a strong emphasis on recent theoretical advances and new discoveries that have made significant contributions to this field of research during the past decade.

 

Learning outcomes

On the successful completion of the course, students will be able to:

Developed

Assessed

ILO 1

Identify key differences between mammal skeletons, with a focus on primate species

X

X

ILO 2

Explain what information is used to identify and describe distinct hominin species

X

X

ILO 3

Discuss theories of behavioural evolution in primates

X

X

ILO 4

Discuss how latest omic technologies have revolutionised our understanding of human evolution

X

X

ILO 5

Identify the principles of evolutionary adaptation and explain their role in primate and human evolution

X

X

ILO 6

Describe the key lines of evidence for the evolution of human cognitive capacity

X

X

 

Syllabus

Topics:
Introduction.  Primate ecology and behaviour.  Primate fossil record.
Primate anatomy, ontogeny and functional morphology
Hominin origins.  Evolution of bipedalism
Manipulation, tool manufacture and use
Primate societies
Palaeoecology and the environment of evolutionary adaptedness
Cognitive evolution, palaeoneurology, language and art.
Dispersal, colonisation and niche expansion
Genomic and proteomic evidence for primate and human evolution.
Hunter-gatherer ecology
The Upper Palaeolithic revolution
Post-Pleistocene adaptations – domestication and sedentism
 

Teaching and learning methods

Predominantly lecture-based (12 hours, see course content below for titles), but supplemented by practical classes involving dry laboratory assessments of skeletal morphology.

 

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written exam 80%
Practical skills assessment 20%

Feedback methods

Assessment type

% Weighting within unit

Hand out and hand in dates

Length

 

How, when and what feedback is provided

ILO tested

 

Open book assessment

50

 

2

Oral and written feedback given during special session at end of semester 2

1, 2, 3, 4, 5 & 6

Report

30

Week 10, hand-in dates 2 weeks

2

Written feedback given during special session at end of semester 2

1, 5 & 6

Presentation 20 Weeks 7-9 2
 
Written feedback given during special session at end of semester 2
 
2, 3 &4

 

Recommended reading

Gibson, K.R., Gibson, K.R. and Ingold, T. eds., 1993. Tools, language and cognition in human evolution. Cambridge University Press.

 

King, G.E., 2015. Primate Behavior and Human Origins. Routledge.

 

Sahle, Y., Reyes-Centeno, H. and Bentz, C. eds., 2019. Modern Human Origins and Dispersal. Kerns Verlag.

 

Scarre, C., 2005. The human past: world prehistory and the development of human societies. Thames & Hudson.

 

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 10
Practical classes & workshops 14
Independent study hours
Independent study 76

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Michael Buckley Unit coordinator

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