BIOSCI 210 : Evolution and the Origin of Life


2024 Semester Two (1245) (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 origin and evolution of life, with a focus on mechanisms that have given rise to the diversity and complexity biological systems. We examine theories for the origin and early evolution of life, multicellularity & sex, explore the evidence for evolution, learn about mechanisms of evolutionary change & adaptation and the origin of species, including our own, and the relationships between species. We also explore how we can use evolutionary methods to study the evolution and diversity of human language and culture. Finally, we explore the impact of evolutionary thinking on society, and critically evaluate science in the media. 

This course covers concepts that underpin all biology, and will help you to understand how biology has emerged and diversified, from simply beginnings. You will enroll in the course because you are interested in understanding the processes underpinning evolution and how these give rise to the incredible diversity and complexity in the natural world. The course is designed for students with foundational knowledge of evolution (i.e. from BIOSCI 109). Additional preparation before you begin the class is not required. 

This course will be of interest to students who are motivated to understand how evolution works, and how adaptations, diversity, and complexity emerge at any level - from molecules through organisms to ecosystems and even human language and culture.

Course Requirements

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

Capabilities Developed in this Course

Capability 1: People and Place
Capability 2: Sustainability
Capability 3: Knowledge and Practice
Capability 4: Critical Thinking
Capability 5: Solution Seeking
Capability 6: Communication
Capability 7: Collaboration
Capability 8: Ethics and Professionalism
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 key evidence supporting the theory (Capability 3, 4, 5 and 6)
  2. Describe fundamental ideas regarding the organisation of life, and the relationships between species (Capability 1, 2 and 6)
  3. Describe the major transitions in the evolution of life (Capability 3, 4 and 6)
  4. Assess ideas regarding the natural world (Capability 1, 2, 3 and 4)
  5. Apply evolutionary thinking to observations of the natural world (Capability 1, 2, 3 and 7)
  6. Assess media and/or popular coverage of evolution and its implications for society (Capability 1, 4, 6 and 8)
  7. Work collaboratively in pairs and groups to generate, interpret, assess and report results (Capability 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7)
  8. Describe and contrast both adaptive and non-adaptive mechanisms of evolution (Capability 3, 4 and 5)


Assessment Type Percentage Classification
Lab Reports 32% Individual Coursework
Quizzes 11% Individual Coursework
Final Exam 30% Individual Examination
Test 27% Individual Test
Assessment Type Learning Outcome Addressed
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Lab Reports
Final Exam


Tuākana Science is a multi-faceted programme for Māori and Pacific students providing topic specific tutorials, one-on-one sessions, test and exam preparation and more. Explore your options at

For more information and to find contact details for the BIOSCI210 Tuākana coordinator, please see

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.

Delivery Mode

Campus Experience

Attendance is required at scheduled activities including laboratories to complete components of the course.

Lectures will be taught on campus and be available as recordings. Other learning activities including tutorials will not be available as recordings. The course will not include live online events.

The activities for the course are scheduled as a standard weekly timetable.

Learning 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.

There is no prescribed textbook but depending on the topic, we use a range of recommended textbooks. The most comprehensive recommended textbook is 'Evolution' by Stearns and Hoekstra, which is on short loan at the library. 
Evolution: an introduction, 2nd Ed. 2005, by S. Stearns and R. Hoekstra, Oxford Uni Press. Library: 576.8 S79 2005 (also 1st Ed. 576.8 S79)
Evolution, 1st Ed. 2005, 2nd Ed. 2009, 3rd Ed. 2013, 4th Ed. 2017, D. Futuyma, Sinauer. Library: 576.8 F99e / 576.8 F99e 2009 / 576.8 F99e 2013
Evolution, 3rd Ed., 2005, M. Ridley, Blackwell. Library: 576.8 R54e 2004 (also 1st Ed. 576.8 R54e and 2nd Ed. 576.8 R54e 1996)

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.

Staff welcome feedback on the course throughout the semester, including the SET evaluations. Please contact your course coordinator or student representative at any time with your feedback.

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 for potential plagiarism or other forms of academic misconduct, using computerised detection mechanisms.

Class Representatives

Class representatives are students tasked with representing student issues to departments, faculties, and the wider university. If you have a complaint about this course, please contact your class rep who will know how to raise it in the right channels. See your departmental noticeboard for contact details for your class reps.


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.

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

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.

Learning Continuity

In the event of an unexpected disruption, we undertake to maintain the continuity and standard of teaching and learning in all your courses throughout the year. If there are unexpected disruptions the University has contingency plans to ensure that access to your course continues and course assessment continues to meet the principles of the University’s assessment policy. Some adjustments may need to be made in emergencies. You will be kept fully informed by your course co-ordinator/director, and if disruption occurs you should refer to the university website for information about how to proceed.

The delivery mode may change depending on COVID restrictions. Any changes will be communicated through Canvas.

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 students may be asked to submit 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. In exceptional circumstances changes to elements of this course may be necessary at short notice. Students enrolled in this course will be informed of any such changes and the reasons for them, as soon as possible, through Canvas.

Published on 16/11/2023 09:57 a.m.