Evolution and Behaviour

E&B covers a broad range of biological topics with an evolutionary theme, from evolutionary genetics to the evolution of land plants, the evolution of animals, animal behaviour, and finally primate and human evolution and behaviour.

It is a solely essay based subject, with one 3 hour essay paper comprising the whole exam (don’t let this put you off! There will be plenty of opportunities to develop essay skills which are essential in later years). There are also 5 hour practicals every other week which can be assessed (making up 25% of the overall grade from 5 assessed practicals).

E&B is often considered the most interesting and in many ways challenging of the biological options, as it requires comprehension more than factual knowledge (though there is a fair amount of knowledge required!)

Regardless of what typically interests you, the lectures are very accessible. There will be something in this course that interests you, guaranteed. An added bonus is the opportunity to attend an optional Easter field course which, by all accounts, is good value for money and great fun. There are two trips to choose from: one on the Pembrokeshire coast in Wales and another at Slapton Ley in Devon.

You study quite a wide range of subjects, so there isn’t really one textbook that covers everything. Ridley’s Evolution is recommended, it’s generally not necessary to buy as the college library has several copies. The Zoology departmental library has a whole shelf of overnight loan books which contain all the books recommended by lecturers, so if in doubt you can find any books needed there.

This course is useful if you want to do Animal Biology, Ecology, Plant Sciences or Experimental Psychology Part 1B, and for a variety of Part II courses including Zoology. You might also find that it complements Geology nicely. E&B has been a popular PBS option since its inclusion in the course.

More information can be found at:



For PBS students considering E&B, you can find specific information in the handbook, which can be found at:


The Natural Sciences Society of St John's College