BIOSCI 210 : Evolution and the Biological Origin of Life


2020 Semester Two (1205) (15 POINTS)

Course Prescription

Covers basic concepts in evolutionary biology including Darwin and the theory of evolution by natural selection, phylogenetics, population genetics, molecular evolution, speciation and extinction. The extent to which Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection can explain the origins of biological complexity is explored.

Course Overview

In this course, we explore the origins of, and mechanisms that have created, the incredible diversity and complexity in the biological world. We discuss theories for the origin of life, multicellularity and sex, explore evidence of the theory of evolution, and learn about mechanisms of evolutionary change and adaptation, the origin of species, including our own, and the relationships between species. Finally, we explore evolution and society, and critically evaluate science in the media. This course covers concepts that underlie all of Biology, and will help you to understand why the biological world is the way it is, and the rules we think govern it. You will enrol in the course because you have a fascination for understanding the incredible diversity and complexity in the biological world. The course is designed for students with a good groundwork and knowledge of evolution (i.e. from BIOSCI 109) and who are curious about the natural world. Additional preparation before you begin the class is not required. This course is a key paper in the Bachelor of Biological Sciences evolution and zoology pathways (see but would be a valuable addition to any other Biological Sciences major, as well as to any student who shares a curiosity for understanding the generation of biological diversity, including the origin of our own species.

A remote version of the course will be provided to students located overseas.

Course Requirements

Prerequisite: BIOSCI 109, and 15 points from BIOSCI 101-108

Capabilities Developed in this Course

Capability 1: Disciplinary Knowledge and Practice
Capability 2: Critical Thinking
Capability 3: Solution Seeking
Capability 4: Communication and Engagement
Capability 6: Social and Environmental Responsibilities
Graduate Profile: Bachelor of Science

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, students will be able to:
  1. Describe the scientific and factual basis of the theory of evolution, including the quantity and diversity of evidence supporting the theory (Capability 1 and 2)
  2. Describe fundamental ideas regarding the organisation of life, and the relationships between species (Capability 1 and 2)
  3. Describe how changing selection pressures, including climate change, will affect organisms, and describe ways to make predictions of a species' ability to adapt (Capability 1 and 6)
  4. Describe the major transitions in the evolution of life (Capability 1 and 2)
  5. Assess ideas regarding the natural world (Capability 2)
  6. Apply evolutionary thinking to observations of the natural world (Capability 1, 2 and 3)
  7. Assess media coverage of scientific findings (Capability 2 and 6)
  8. Work collaboratively in pairs and groups to generate, interpret and assess results (Capability 4)
  9. Demonstrate an understanding of evolution via both adaptive and non-adaptive processes (Capability 1 and 2)


Assessment Type Percentage Classification
Assignments 30% Individual Coursework
Presentation 4% Group Coursework
Quizzes 1% Individual Coursework
Test 20% Individual Coursework
Final Exam 45% Individual Coursework
Assessment Type Learning Outcome Addressed
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
Final Exam


For more information and to find contact details for the current BIOSCI 210 Tuākana coordinator, please see

Learning Resources

Prescribed textbook:
Evolution: an introduction, 2nd edition 2005, by S. Stearns and R. Hoekstra, Oxford Uni Press, ISBN 0-19-925563-6  

Special Requirements

Attendance at all four labs is compulsory. Students who are approved to take this course remotely will have alternative arrangements made.

Workload Expectations

This course is a standard 15 point course and students are expected to spend 10 hours per week involved in each 15 point course that they are enrolled in.

For this course, you can expect 31 hours of lectures, 12 hours of labs, 4 hours of tutorials, 40 hours of reading and thinking about the content and 40 hours of work on assignments and/or test preparation.

Digital Resources

Course materials are made available in a learning and collaboration tool called Canvas which also includes reading lists and lecture recordings (where available).

Please remember that the recording of any class on a personal device requires the permission of the instructor.


The content and delivery of content in this course are protected by copyright. Material belonging to others may have been used in this course and copied by and solely for the educational purposes of the University under license.

You may copy the course content for the purposes of private study or research, but you may not upload onto any third party site, make a further copy or sell, alter or further reproduce or distribute any part of the course content to another person.

Academic Integrity

The University of Auckland will not tolerate cheating, or assisting others to cheat, and views cheating in coursework as a serious academic offence. The work that a student submits for grading must be the student's own work, reflecting their learning. Where work from other sources is used, it must be properly acknowledged and referenced. This requirement also applies to sources on the internet. A student's assessed work may be reviewed against online source material using computerised detection mechanisms.

Inclusive Learning

All students are asked to discuss any impairment related requirements privately, face to face and/or in written form with the course coordinator, lecturer or tutor.

Student Disability Services also provides support for students with a wide range of impairments, both visible and invisible, to succeed and excel at the University. For more information and contact details, please visit the Student Disability Services’ website at

Special Circumstances

If your ability to complete assessed coursework is affected by illness or other personal circumstances outside of your control, contact a member of teaching staff as soon as possible before the assessment is due.

If your personal circumstances significantly affect your performance, or preparation, for an exam or eligible written test, refer to the University’s aegrotat or compassionate consideration page:

This should be done as soon as possible and no later than seven days after the affected test or exam date.

Student Feedback

During the course Class Representatives in each class can take feedback to the staff responsible for the course and staff-student consultative committees.

At the end of the course students will be invited to give feedback on the course and teaching through a tool called SET or Qualtrics. The lecturers and course co-ordinators will consider all feedback.

Your feedback helps to improve the course and its delivery for all students.

Student Charter and Responsibilities

The Student Charter assumes and acknowledges that students are active participants in the learning process and that they have responsibilities to the institution and the international community of scholars. The University expects that students will act at all times in a way that demonstrates respect for the rights of other students and staff so that the learning environment is both safe and productive. For further information visit Student Charter (


Elements of this outline may be subject to change. The latest information about the course will be available for enrolled students in Canvas.

In this course you may be asked to submit your coursework assessments digitally. The University reserves the right to conduct scheduled tests and examinations for this course online or through the use of computers or other electronic devices. Where tests or examinations are conducted online remote invigilation arrangements may be used. The final decision on the completion mode for a test or examination, and remote invigilation arrangements where applicable, will be advised to students at least 10 days prior to the scheduled date of the assessment, or in the case of an examination when the examination timetable is published.

Published on 01/07/2020 11:36 a.m.