Coordinated by Professor Anusuya Chinsamy-Turan, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Cape Town

Charles Darwin’s hypothesis of evolution by natural selection or ‘descent with modification’ underlies all modern biology. It allows us to understand our genes, fight viruses, and understand the living and extinct biodiversity of our planet. This course will explore how our knowledge of evolution is important in our society today. It will begin by exploring life on Earth from its beginnings about 3.8 billion years ago to the modern biodiversity evident around us. A key question today is understanding how the morphology of animals has diversified, given the common set of genes that are found in vertebrate genomes. This question will be considered in the second lecture with a focus on the homeotic genes (or Hox genes) which are highly conserved master regulators of cell identity and morphology in animals.

Moving to the plant kingdom, the third and fourth lectures will use African biomes as the focus for discussing the evolution of diversity. Two examples, the Cape’s incredible diversity of flowers and their associated pollinators and the African savanna’s ‘underground forests’ will be described and analysed. The final lecture will explore how evolutionary theory can improve our understanding of human behavioural problems (e.g. rape, xenophobia, greed) and how, through establishing a science of human behaviour, it can provide us with pointers to solutions for supposedly deviant behaviour.

1.    Life through deep time (Prof A. Chinsamy-Turan)
2.    Homeotic genes and their influence on body form (Prof N. Illing, Dept of Molecular and Cellular Biology)
3.    Pollination biology in the Cape as a model system for studying evolution (Prof J.J. Midgley, Dept of Biological Sciences)
4.    The evolution of the African savanna (Dr M. Muasya, Dept of Biological Sciences)
5.    Understanding human conflict in terms of evolution (Prof D. Jacobs, Dept of Biological Sciences)


Course code: 1031

Date & time: 27–31 January 9.15 am


Full: R375,00

Staff: R186,00

Reduced: R94,00