Teaching plan for the course unit



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General information


Course unit name: Evolution and Development

Course unit code: 568782

Academic year: 2021-2022

Coordinator: Jordi Garcia Fernandez

Department: Department of Genetics, Microbiology and Statistics

Credits: 2,5

Single program: S



Estimated learning time

Total number of hours 62,5


Face-to-face and/or online activities



-  Lecture




Supervised project


Independent learning




Competences to be gained during study


This subject is complementary to the subject Genetics and Genomics of Development, which covers the molecular basis of embryonic development. This course also emphasizes the concept of integration, as it combines genetic and genomic analysis, evolution of genes and genomes and development. Thus, it develops the capacity to address related questions (what is the molecular basis of change and evolution?), using a multidisciplinary approach employing synthesis, models and appropriate methods.





Learning objectives


Referring to knowledge

The basic objective is to develop a comparative understanding of the embryonic development of the main animal phyla, and study their cellular, genetic and molecular bases in order to identify the invariant aspects that reflect the evolutionary unity of all organisms, and the changes that have been responsible for evolution and the generation of biodiversity. In other words, the aim is to explore how variation in embryonic development has led to morphological and functional evolution in plants and animals. This field of study, known as evolutionary developmental biology (informally, evo-devo), is currently one of the most attractive areas of biology and in constant expansion.



Teaching blocks


1. Introduction to evolutionary developmental biology

*  • Evolution of body plans; Comparative embryology
• Genetic and genomic approach: Genes, genomes, cells and morphology
• Basic study methods and essential arguments

2. How animal phylogeny clarifies animal evolution

*  • Molecular phylogenies
• Comparison of sequences
• Rare Genomic Changes (RGC)

3. Processes involved in the evolution of the body

*  • Genic diversification: Gene structure and duplication, transcriptome regulation, post-transcriptional regulation 
• Combinatorial control of gene expression 
• Gene Regulatory Networks (GRN); Genesis and structure 
• The gene–cell–morphology connection

4. The genetic basis of major evolutionary innovations

*  • Multicellularity
• Origin and diversification of the AP axis; Hox genes 
• Genesis of the DV axis and bilateral symmetry 
• Repetition of structures: serialization and segmentation
• Origins of chordates

5. The genetic basis of morphological adaptations

*  • Appendages and limbs in vertebrates and invertebrates 
• Microevolution examples 
• The wings of bats
• The beaks of finches
• Colouration of the wings of insects

6. Seminars

7. The future: Open questions and an attempt at synthesis

*  • The evolution of genomes and GRN 
• The GRN–morphology connection
• Toward a functional evolutionary developmental biology

8. Final discussion and conclusions



Teaching methods and general organization


Face-to-face learning activities 

Face-to-face learning activities consist of theory classes, seminars and problem-solving exercises. They also include lectures given by specialist guest lecturers. 


Independent learning activities 

Independent learning consists of recommended and further reading, to ensure full understanding of the concepts presented in class. A series of problem-solving exercises on specific cases must also be completed, as well preparation for the discussion of scientific papers in class.



Official assessment of learning outcomes



Assessment criteria and procedures

  • Written examination based on: 
    • Concepts explained in class.
    • Talks by visiting lecturers.
    • Scientific articles discussed and analysed through the course. 
  • Student presentations and discussion of selected scientific papers. 

Careful consideration is given to the degree of participation in all classes and general discussions. 

In order to pass the course, at least 70% of attendance is required, as well as passing the written examination.