37930 - Biological Evolution

Course Unit Page

Academic Year 2020/2021

Learning outcomes

The student, starting from theknowledge ofthe evolutionary theories, will understand the mechanisms of evolution, with particular emphasis on speciation mechanisms.
Taking advantage of these acquisitions, he will be confronted with the great topic of the origin of the life and the animal biodiversity.
The information of the course will put the students in a position to distinguishing the historical aspects, incontrovertible, of the evolution from the evolutionary mechanisms, afield thatis becoming richer of new hypotheses.

Course contents

Short introduction to the Evolutionary Theories
Linnaeus, Cuvier, Buffon, Lamarck. The Darwinism (Darwin, Wallace) and the evolution by mean of natural selection. The sexual selection.
The genetic bases of Evolution.
The Origin of genetic variability. Chance and necessity. Genetic structure of populations (Hardy-Weinberg, genetic drift, genetic flow).
Molecular methods for the evolutionary studies.
Allozyme electrophoresis. Recombinant DNA techniques: cloning, PCR, sequencing. Basics of statistical methods for phylogenetic reconstruction. The molecular clock.
(What is a species. Definitions and limits of the species concept.) Models of speciation: Allopatric, Sympatric, Stasipatric. Chromosomal Speciation. Polyploidy, ibridation, parthenogenesis.
Gradualism and punctuated equilibria.
The debate on tempo and mode of Evolution
Theory of Punctuated Equilibrias.
Macromutations. Hox genes. EvoDevo (Evolutionary Development).
Origin and evolution of life on earth.
Pre-biotic chemistry. Miller's experiments. Hypothesis of the “primordial soup” and alternatives. The RNA world. The first unicellular organisms. Archea. Procariota. Origin of the eukaryotes and the pluricellularity. Origin and main evolutionary events of the animal phyla.


Ferraguti M., Castellacci C. Evoluzione, modelli e processi. Pearson.

Douglas J. Futuyma. L'evoluzione. Zanichelli.

Mark Ridley. Evoluzione. La storia della vita e i suoi meccanismi. Ed. McGraw-Hill

Teaching methods

During lectures and in laboratory, open discussions with the teacher will be strongly stimulated.

Assiduous participation to lessons is mandatory, given to the strict concatenation of the arguments.

Assessment methods

The examination at the end of the course aims to assess the achievement of learning objectives:

  • knowledge and understanding of the Theory of Evolution, including its theoretical bases and most recent achievements.
The final score is defined by oral examination.

Teaching tools

Lectures, with powerpoint presentations, and a visit to the laboratory of molecular zoology.

Powerpoint presentations used during the lessons will be available to students.

Office hours

See the website of Marco Passamonti