BI2045 - Sexual Selection and Communication


Examination arrangement

Examination arrangement: Assignment and written examination
Grade: Letter grades

Evaluation Weighting Duration Grade deviation Examination aids
School exam 60/100 4 hours D
Assignment 40/100 A

Course content

The course provides a comprehensive introduction to sexual selection and communication in animals. Sexual selection is "Darwin's second theory" and a major evolutionary force to explain all sorts of extravagant traits in animals, from beautiful colours and strange plumes to antlers and horns, bird and insect song, and elaborate mating rituals found across the animal kingdom. Central themes of the course include mating competition, mate choice, pre- and post-mating sexual selection, animal sex role dynamics, and how sexual selection has shaped female and male morphology and behaviour. Communication plays a central role in sexual selection, and the subject is mainly discussed in the context of communication among competitors, for matings or resources required to mate, or between the sexes, in the context of mate choice. With these processes central to individual reproductive success and thus to evolutionary fitness, sexual selection is a major driver of evolution.

Learning outcome


The candidate should obtain knowledge about:

  • Animal communication and the basic theories for communication
  • Reproductive behaviour of animals, with particular emphasis on sexual behaviour
  • Sexual selection, including how sexual selection affects morphology and behaviour of males and females
  • The importance of sexual selection for speciation and biodiversity
  • Scientific writing through project work experience


The candidate will be skilled on:

  • Identify and understand original literature in the forefront of current research on selected topics
  • Formulate and test scientific hypotheses
  • Understand and interpret empirical data as a means to explain biological phenomena
  • Present and discuss biological science, using examples from communication and reproduction

Generall competence:

The candidate will get competence on:

  • Use knowledge about reproductive dynamics, communication and sexual selection is assessment of biological questions
  • Critically assess scientific studies, and extract relevant data from such investigations
  • Write an overview of a scientific question based on scientific literature.

Learning methods and activities

The course consists of two parts:

  1. Teaching sessions covering the major themes of the course, and
  2. a literature-based project (conducted in groups) to review the state-of-the-art for an 'unsolved puzzle' within the theme for the course. Teaching sessions aim for student engagement and student-teacher interaction. Teaching sessions and projects together contribute training in scientific methodology, including formulating and testing scientific hypotheses, based on examples from sexual selection.

Compulsory assignments

  • Approved project work

Further on evaluation

The course is in two parts, with independent grades for the two. The course grade is set once both part-grades are evaluated as passed. One part is a written exam which counts 60% to the final grade, the other part is a report on an assigned topic that counts 40% to the final grade.

In order for the report to be judged as passed, the student must contribute at an oral presentation and discussion of the assigned topic.

In case you want to have your grade explained or would like to appeal the grade for the exam, the report, or both, this must be done after the final course mark is set.

In case of fail or if you want to improve your grade:

  • the written exam can be taken again in either term, not only in the teaching term for the course
  • you will have to submit a new project in the next teaching term for the course

Required previous knowledge


Course materials

The course does not use a textbook, but is instead built on original scientific literature from scientific journals and books.

Credit reductions

Course code Reduction From To
ZO2042 7.5 AUTUMN 2011
More on the course



Version: 1
Credits:  7.5 SP
Study level: Intermediate course, level II


Term no.: 1
Teaching semester:  SPRING 2024

Language of instruction: English

Location: Trondheim

Subject area(s)
  • Ethology
  • Biodiversity
  • Biology
  • Zoology
  • Ecology
Contact information
Course coordinator: Lecturer(s):

Department with academic responsibility
Department of Biology


Examination arrangement: Assignment and written examination

Term Status code Evaluation Weighting Examination aids Date Time Examination system Room *
Autumn ORD Assignment 40/100 A INSPERA
Room Building Number of candidates
Autumn ORD School exam 60/100 D 2023-11-24 09:00 INSPERA
Room Building Number of candidates
Spring ORD Assignment 40/100 A INSPERA
Room Building Number of candidates
Spring ORD School exam 60/100 D 2024-06-06 15:00 INSPERA
Room Building Number of candidates
SL310 blå sone Sluppenvegen 14 30
  • * The location (room) for a written examination is published 3 days before examination date. If more than one room is listed, you will find your room at Studentweb.

For more information regarding registration for examination and examination procedures, see "Innsida - Exams"

More on examinations at NTNU