GEN-51306 Seminal Papers in Evolutionary Biology


Credits 6.00

Teaching methodContact hours
Individual Paper1
Group work6
Course coordinator(s)prof. dr. JAGM de Visser
Lecturer(s)prof. dr. JAGM de Visser
dr. DK Aanen
Examiner(s)prof. dr. JAGM de Visser

Language of instruction:


Assumed knowledge on:

GEN-11306 Evolution and Systematics and GEN-20306 Molecular and Evolutionary Ecology.


The aim of this course is to deepen the student's understanding of the fundamental concepts in evolutionary biology and some of its applications by discussing seminal papers and applying these to modern research. The course, therefore, wants to raise both historical awareness of these concepts and wants to emphasize the actual usefulness of evolutionary principles. On the basis of seminal papers, each week a general theme in evolutionary biology will be discussed. These include basic mechanisms such as natural selection and genetic drift, the evolutionary role of mutation and sex & recombination, sexual selection and life history evolution, social evolution and the levels of selection. Original papers will be used, but recent reviews and timely (public) discussions that summarize (the controversies involving) the ideas will also be used. The theme will be introduced by a teacher or guest lecturer (if sufficient students enroll) or in a discussion meeting (if few students enroll), and students choose one or two seminal papers from a collection and identify related recent papers. In the final week(s), students will work out the meaning of a target seminal paper of their own choice in the form of an individual essay.

Learning outcomes:

After successful completion of this course students are expected to be able to:
- identify, read and understand original (classic and more recent) research papers;
- write and present reports about the connection between seminal paper and recent literature;
- understand the key concepts of evolutionary biology;
- demonstrate and discuss the relevance of these concepts for life sciences;
- apply and critically discuss these insights to societal problems during discussions and in essay.


Students will:
- attend lectures;
- read the seminal papers;
- actively engage in discussing conceptual problems with the seminal papers;
- identify recent studies or discussion papers applying or refuting the ideas of each seminal paper;
- write an essay explaining why one or more papers of choice are "seminal" work;
- weekly present and discuss these reports.


- individual weekly presentations and contribution to discussions (30%);
- individual essay (70%).
Minimal mark for both is 5.5.


Seminal papers will be provided.
More recent literature will be collected by the students.