Biological aspects of Human Evolution

Course description Biological aspects of Human Evolution
Year: 2017-2018
Catalog number: 4023BAH14
Teacher(s):
  • Prof.dr. M.K. Richardson
  • Dr. K. Vrieling
Language: English
Blackboard: Yes
EC: 15
Level: 300
Period: Semester 1
  • Yes Elective choice
  • No Contractonderwijs
  • Yes Exchange
  • Yes Study Abroad
  • No Evening course
  • No A la Carte
  • No Honours Class

Admission requirements

The course is open for all students that are enrolled in the minor Human Evolution and who have followed the previous course ‘The evolution of ageing and disease’.

Contact information

Coordinator: Prof. dr. M.K. Richardson
Email: m.k.richardson@biology.leidenuniv.nl

Description

The anatomy, embryology and evolution of the human body and man’s close relatives will be studied, with special emphasis on the skeleton, brain and digestive system. The human skull is studied in detail and compared with the skulls of other primates. Soft tissues of humans will be studied in a practical using human cadaveric remains.

Genetic traits such as haplotypes can help us to reconstruct pathways of human migration, population differentiation and can show us the remarkable unity, as well as diversity, of different ethnic groups. Furthermore, we will learn how other hominins contributed to the gene pool of modern humans.

The human genome is also studied here with practical sessions in which the student is taught how to analyze the human genome. Students gain practical training in comparative genomics and learn how to construct gene-based phylogenies using genes from the human genome and comparing them with orthologues from extinct hominin species and various mammalian genomes.

This course also deals with the evolution of language, behaviour and culture in recent man. The basic structure of a true language will be considered. The evolution of the brain in relation to tool use will be studied. Students will learn how Archaeology contributes to our understanding of how recent humans evolved and lived in communities. We will try to integrate knowledge from across the disciplines, seeing how the command of tools and fire, as well as changes in habitat, led to changes in the human body, to increased brain size, changes in skeleton and the development of language and social living.

Learning goals

Course objectives:

  • The student learns the core concepts of evolutionary biology and evolutionary medicine.
  • The student learns when and how the species of Homo sapiens has developed from other species and has spread over the world.
  • The student learns how evolutionary constraints influence human anatomy and physiology.
  • The student learns how the human evolutionary past and present are mismatched.
  • The student learns how many current diseases are a consequence of the abovementioned evolutionary mismatch.
  • The student is taught how to design a research question and hypothesis and execute a research project to answer his research question and hypothesis under the guidance of a senior researcher.
  • The student is taught about the evolution of morphology of humans and primates.
  • The students learns to work with public databases containing genome information.
  • The students learns how the the human brain evolved.
  • The student learns how language and speech evolved.
  • The students learns the key concepts of Evolutionary psychology.
  • The students learns the concept of cultural evolution and how if differs from biological evolution.
  • The students learns to write a review.

Final qualifications:

  • The student knows and understands the core concepts of evolutionary biology and evolutionary medicine.
  • The student knows when and how the species of Homo sapiens has developed from other species and has spread over the world.
  • The student knows and understands the evolutionary constraints in human anatomy and physiology.
  • The student understands why and how the human evolutionary past and present are mismatched.
  • The student understands how many current diseases are a consequence of the abovementioned evolutionary mismatch.
  • The student is able to design a research question and hypothesis and execute a research project to answer his research question and hypothesis under the guidance of a senior researcher.
  • The student understands the evolution of morphology of humans and primates
  • The student is able to work with public databases containing genome information
  • The student understands the evolution of the human brain
  • The student understands the evolution of language and speech
  • The student understands the key concepts of Evolutionary psychology
  • The student understands the concept of cultural evolution and how if differs from biological evolution
  • The students learns to write a review

Timetable

From 13 November 2017 – 2 February 2018. A detailed time table will be published on blackboard.
2 weeks – Descent of man and its impact on morphology
2 weeks – Genetics of human evolution
3 weeks – Evolution of the brain, language and behaviour
2 weeks – Writing essay
1 week – Cultural evolution

Mode of instruction

Teaching consists of lectures, reading primary literature, practical’s, an independent research project, writing an essay and self-study.

Assessment method

Evaluation of reports and presentations, exams,

Blackboard

Announcements, course information and course material will be communicated via blackboard.

Reading list

Compulsory books:

  • Stearns, Evolutionary Medicine, 2016
  • Boyd and Silk, How humans evolved, 2014

Registration

Via uSis and enroll in Blackboard

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

Languages