Category Archives: Teaching

Coevolutionary interactions course

And so the term begins, as does version 1.0 of my Coevolutionary Interactions course (bio3401). The idea behind the course is to use species interactions and the coevolutionary process to reinforce key theory/ideas in evolution and ecology. To do that, I am taking a case studies approach where I give an interactive lecture on a new topic each week, including key background information students need to put the papers they will read into context. I then assign two papers from the primary literature on the topic, and ask a group of students to lead discussion about the papers during the following class. I have not taught a course in this format before, so will blog again at the end of the term and let you know how it goes.

Calvin always says it best! Credit: Bill Watterson

For now, after rearranging post-it notes ad nauseam, I have decided on the following topics and associated readings:

(1) Introduction to coevolutionary interactions and lecture on competition and character displacement. Readings: Grant, P. R., & Grant, B. R. (2006). Evolution of character displacement in Darwin’s finches. science, 313(5784), 224-226. and Stuart, Y. E., & Losos, J. B. (2013). Ecological character displacement: glass half full or half empty?. Trends in ecology & evolution.

(2) Lecture on mutualisms and trait loss. Readings: Ellers, J., Toby Kiers, E., Currie, C. R., McDonald, B. R., & Visser, B. (2012). Ecological interactions drive evolutionary loss of traits. Ecology Letters, 15(10), 1071-1082. and Koricheva, J., & Romero, G. Q. (2012). You get what you pay for: reward-specific trade-offs among direct and ant-mediated defences in plants. Biology Letters, 8(4), 628-630.

(3) Lecture on mimicry. Readings: Kapan, D. D. (2001). Three-butterfly system provides a field test of Müllerian mimicry. Nature, 409(6818), 338-340. and Jiggins, C. D., Naisbit, R. E., Coe, R. L., & Mallet, J. (2001). Reproductive isolation caused by colour pattern mimicry. Nature, 411(6835), 302-305.

(4) Lecture on plant-pollinator interactions. Readings: Micheneau, C., Johnson, S. D., & Fay, M. F. (2009). Orchid pollination: from Darwin to the present day. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society, 161(1),   1-19. and Anderson, B., & Johnson, S. D. (2008). The geographical mosaic of coevolution   in a plant–pollinator mutualism. Evolution, 62(1), 220-225.

(5) Lecture on predator-prey interactions and herbivory. Readings: Brodie, E. D., Ridenhour, B. J., & Brodie, E. D. (2002). The evolutionary response of predators to dangerous prey: hotspots and coldspots in the geographic mosaic of coevolution between garter snakes and newts. Evolution, 56(10), 2067-2082. and Agrawal, A. A., Hastings, A. P., Johnson, M. T., Maron, J. L., & Salminen, J. P. (2012). Insect herbivores drive real-time ecological and evolutionary change in plant populations. Science, 338(6103), 113-116.

(6) Lecture on host-parasite interactions. Readings: Lively, C.M., and Dybdahl, M.F. (2000) Parasite adaptation to locally common host genotypes. Nature 405, 679-681. and Koskella, B., & Lively, C. M. (2009). Evidence for negative frequency-dependent selection during experimental coevolution of a freshwater snail and a sterilizing trematode. Evolution, 63(9), 2213-2221.

(7) Lecture on multi-species interactions. Readings: Currie, C. R., Wong, B., Stuart, A. E., Schultz, T. R., Rehner, S. A., Mueller, U. G., … & Straus, N. A. (2003). Ancient tripartite coevolution in the attine ant-microbe symbiosis. Science, 299(5605), 386-388. and Munkacsi, A. B., Pan, J. J., Villesen, P., Mueller, U. G., Blackwell, M., & McLaughlin, D. J. (2004). Convergent coevolution in the domestication of coral mushrooms by fungus–growing ants. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B: Biological Sciences, 271(1550), 1777-1782.

(8) Lecture on the geographic mosaic theory of coevolution. Readings: Thompson, J. N., & Cunningham, B. M. (2002). Geographic structure and dynamics of coevolutionary selection. Nature, 417(6890), 735-738. and Benkman, C. W., Holimon, W. C., & Smith, J. W. (2001). The influence of a competitor on the geographic mosaic of coevolution between crossbills and lodgepole pine. Evolution, 55(2), 282-294.

(9) Lecture on coadaptation and cospeciation. Readings: Clark, M.A., et al. (2000) Cospeciation between bacterial endosymbionts (Buchnera) and a recent radiation of aphids (Uroleucon) and pitfalls of testing for phylogenetic congruence. Evolution 54, 517-525. and Hafner, M.S., et al. (1994) Disparate Rates of Molecular Evolution in Cospeciating Hosts and Parasites. Science 265, 1087-1090.

(10) Lecture on time shift experiments and experimental coevolution. Readings: Brockhurst, M. A., Morgan, A. D., Rainey, P. B., & Buckling, A. (2003). Population mixing accelerates coevolution. Ecology Letters, 6(11), 975-979. and Koskella, B. (2013). Phage-mediated selection on microbiota of a long-lived host. Current Biology.

(11) Lecture on coevolution within communities, and ecosystem stability.

Finally, for the assessment I’ve decided to model these on my two favorite courses of all times: a) Janis Antonovics Disease course at UVA, where we all had to make posters about a given disease, and b) Curt Lively’s Evolution course at Indiana University, where the final exam was 5 short answer questions verbatim from a list of 20 he had given us weeks before.

Oh yes, and I am also striving to have at least one bit of maths in every lecture! Luckily, I’ve got a great group of (32) students who are already showing full engagement and enthusiasm for the subject. Looking forward to a busy but fun term!