NNMK14006U Plant Animal Interactions. An Evolutionary Approach.

Volume 2016/2017

A survey of the role of plant-animal interactions in the evolution of biodiversity. The course includes training in oral and written communication skills through journal clubs, workshops, an essay and an oral presentation.

The course will cover the following subjects from an evolutionary approach and use examples from recent and ongoing research:

  • Antagonistic and mutualistic types of plant-animal interactions.
  • Generalisation vs. specialization.
  • Evolutionary approaches to study plant-animal interaction.
  • Herbivory and grazing from both plants and animals perspective.
  • Pollination ecology of for example orchids.
  • Attractants and rewards, for example in hummingbird-plant interactions.
  • Seed predation and dispersal.
  • Plant protection for example by ants.
  • Arms race and co-evolution for example the fig-wasp mutualism.
  • Physical and chemical plant defences.
  • Evolution and lead discovery of medicinal plants
  • Plant-plant and other interactions for example parasitic mistletoes.
  • Grazer–algae interactions in the marine environment
  • Community level interactions including plants as habitat and food webs.
Learning Outcome

After completion of the course students will have gained:


  • Evaluate the evolutionary and ecological impact of plant-animal interactions.
  • Basic knowledge of evolutionary approaches to study plant-animal interaction.
  • Present her/his own work (in oral and written form) at a level approaching the scientific standard.
  • Extract, present and critically discuss in detail the results of a scientific article about plant-animal interactions
  • Identify and explain strengths and weaknesses in scientific articles and suggest further enquiries.
  • Outline future research.



  • Identify and classify types of plant-animal interaction.
  • Describe examples of plant-animal interactions.
  • Design experiments to investigate plant-animal interactions.



  • Theory and examples of plant animal interactions in an evolutionary perspective including subjects described in the course content.
  • Understand the role of plant-animal interactions in the evolution of biodiversity.
  • Examples of recent and ongoing research on plant-animal interactions using an evolutionary approach.
  • Discuss the correlation between plant chemical defense, evolution, and lead discovery of medicinal plants.

Chapters from Herrera and Pellmyr (2002). Plant-Animal Interactions. An Evolutionary Approach. Blackwell Publishing. Supplemented by primary literature.

Basic understanding of plant biology and evolutionary biology recommended, for instance obtained by following the courses "Diversity of the organisms", "Origins", and "Evolutionary biology", recommended.
Each block of 3-4 hours lectures will present general topics supplemented by specific examples, primarily taken from active research themes of the teachers, and small in class exercises, both hands on activities, visits to the botanic gardens, and literature based discussions.
Training in scientific writing will be provided through workshops. Students will choose a plant-animal interaction and write an individual essay in the form of a scientific article (in review form) using primary literature.
Students will prepare a 15 min presentation of their essay individually. A lecture on presentation techniques will be given as inspiration.
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Colloquia
  • 8
  • Exam
  • 2
  • Preparation
  • 74
  • Project work
  • 50
  • Seminar
  • 72
  • Total
  • 206
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Combination of two written multiple choice midterm exams, an individual 5-page essay, and oral presentations and discussions of essays. The final grade is based on the grades in the four subparts, irrespective of whether individual subparts are passed or not.
• 60 minutes written midterm exam I (25%)
• 60 minutes written midterm exam II (25%)
• 5-page essay (40%)
• 15 min presentation (10%)
All aids allowed
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Several internal examiners.

As ordinary exam.

Part-examinations of the ordinary exam can be reused in the re-examination - also in different exam-periods. New part-examinations must be passed for all the part-examinations that were not passed in the original exam.

Criteria for exam assesment

In accordance with the learning outcomes.