Week 1 – From the eukaryotic cell to biodiversity
This chapter will start in Yellowstone NP to introduce the compound eukaryotic cell, the basis of all multicellular organisms and of sex. We will visit the natural history museum in Tel Aviv to discuss classification and the concept of species and travel to Africa to witness biodiversity. Finally, we will briefly describe the history of life on earth and ask whether we are in the midst of mass extinction.
Week 2 – Heredity and evolution
We will describe the three requirements for evolution – variability, selection, and heritability. We will prepare DNA, explain how it encodes information and learn how heredity works. We will meet peacocks and giraffes and discuss sexual selection.
Week 3 – Meiosis and gametogenesis
We will start by describing how cells divide and then learn about meiosis. This fundamental, ancient and conserved process is the basis of all sex as it is required for sex cell production. We will further learn about the fertility cycle and how male and female germ cells are produced.
Week 4 - Male and/or Female
In this chapter we learn about the diverse manner sex is determined and discuss the cost of sex. We will meet hermaphrodite organisms as well as organisms that change their sex during the course of their life. The basic difference between females and males is their sex cells - eggs and sperm. From this difference, many additional differences appeared in various groups leading to sexual dimorphism.
Weeks 5 - Sociality
This chapter will discuss the wide and fascinating range of patterns of reproduction in the animal kingdom. The basic narrative is the conflict between males and females as well as between males and between females. We will meet many different organisms in a variety of locations and discuss examples of external vs. internal fertilization. This is the longest chapter of the course and it will focus among others on social structures in birds, mammals, monkeys, elephants, and even humans.
Week 6 – Embryonal development
This chapter will examine how the fertilized egg develops into an organism in a variety of different animal groups. We will be surprised to observe how highly conserved embryonal development is among very diverse animal groups
Week 7 – Flowers
Flowering plants represent the grandest cooperation in the living world. We will start by learning about primitive plants and their reproduction. We will then learn about flowers and pollinators and how they completely transformed our world. We will conclude with the rather peculiar dual-mode of fertilization in flowers.