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List of 20 Free Courses on Evolutionary Science

You may recall that whales are mammals, but did you know about their unusual journey? Their ancestors migrated from the sea, to land (developing lungs and hip bones, among other things), then re-migrated back to the sea. Thus, whales (which include dolphins) are more closely related to hippos than to anything that lives in the sea!

All life on earth is related, it is just a matter of degree. The study of this is evolutionary science, with roots biology, and a range of new findings that are continually arising (for example, recent converging evidence that many dinosaurs had feathers). However, evolutionary biology is increasingly being used in other fields from public health to psychology and anthropology, to generate rich hypotheses. If you are interested in learning more, there are a number of great courses you can take to learn more, below are 20. So satisfy your curiosity and get your evolutionary science on!

By FabSubeject (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

General Evolution

Evolution: A Course for Educators
American Museum of Natural History via Coursera
How are all of the species living on Earth today related? How does understanding evolutionary science contribute to our well-being? In this course, participants will learn about evolutionary relationships, population genetics, and natural and artificial selection. Participants will explore evolutionary science and learn how to integrate it into their classrooms.
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Evolution and Natural Selection
Northwest Career Technical High School via
This course explores concepts in evolution and natural selection through the influences of genetics, interactions between populations, mutations, and the role of the environment. The role of common ancestry and evolutionary relationships is explored through molecular evidence, fossil records, and anatomical similarities.
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Biology & Chemistry

MCB63X: Principles of Biochemistry
Harvard University via edX
This introduction to biochemistry explores the molecules of life, starting at simple building blocks and culminating in complex metabolism.
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Principles of Biochemistry | HarvardX on edX | About Video

Intro video for Principles of Biochemistry

Epigenetic Control of Gene Expression
University of Melbourne via Coursera
Each mammalian cell has the same genes, yet performs distinct functions. This is achieved by epigenetic control of gene expression; the switching on and switching off of genes. This course will cover the principles of epigenetic control of gene expression, how epigenetic control contributes to cellular differentiation and development, and how it goes wrong in disease.
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Tales from the Genome
23andme via Udacity
This course is a journey into the biology of the human genome and will highlight the scientific, social, and personal perspectives of people living with a variety of traits.
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Bioinformatic Methods I
University of Toronto via Coursera
Use of available (mainly web-based) programs for analyzing biological data. This is an introductory course with a strong emphasis on hands-on methods. Some theory is introduced, but the main focus is on using extant bioinformatics tools to analyze data and generate biological hypotheses.
Go To Class | ★★★★★ (2 ratings) |  

Bioinformatic Methods II
University of Toronto via Coursera
Large-scale biology projects such as the sequencing of the human genome and gene expression surveys using RNA-seq, microarrays and other technologies have created a wealth of data for biologists. However, the challenge facing scientists is analyzing and even accessing these data to extract useful information pertaining to the system being studied. This course focuses on employing existing bioinformatic resources – mainly web-based programs and databases – to access the wealth of data to answer questions relevant to the average biologist, and is highly hands-on.
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Computational Molecular Evolution
Technical University of Denmark (DTU) via Coursera
In this course you will learn about how and why DNA and protein sequences evolve. You will learn the theory behind methods for building and analyzing phylogenetic trees, and get hands-on experience with some widely used software packages.
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7.00x: Introduction to Biology – The Secret of Life
Massachusetts Institute of Technology via edX
Explore the secret of life through the basics of biochemistry, genetics, molecular biology, recombinant DNA, genomics and rational medicine.
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Introduction to Biology - The Secret of Life | MITx on edX | Course About Video

Preparation for Introductory Biology: DNA to Organisms
University of California, Irvine via Coursera
Through this class you should be able to explain basic concepts in cellular and molecular biology using correct terminology, as well as develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills that can be applied to all of your studies of biology.
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Introduction to Systems Biology
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai via Coursera
An introduction to current concepts of how cellular molecules come together to form systems, how these systems exhibit emergent properties, and how these properties are used to make cellular decisions.
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Introduction to Genetics and Evolution
Duke University via Coursera
A whirlwind introduction to evolution and genetics, from basic principles to current applications, including how disease genes are mapped, areas or research in evolutionary genetics, and how we leverage evolutionary concepts to aid humanity.
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Paleontology & Geology

By Copyright © 2005 David Monniaux (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The Dynamic Earth: A Course for Educators
American Museum of Natural History via Coursera
How and why is the Earth constantly changing? How do scientists reconstruct events in Earth’s geologic history? This course explores the origin and evolution of the Earth and provides resources for educational use.
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Dino 101: Dinosaur Paleobiology
University of Alberta via Coursera
Dino 101: Dinosaur Paleobiology is a 12-lesson course teaching a comprehensive overview of non-avian dinosaurs. Topics covered: anatomy, eating, locomotion, growth, environmental and behavioral adaptations, origins and extinction. Lessons are delivered from museums, fossil-preparation labs and dig sites.
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Superb! Excellent presentation, real fossils used, on-location filming, engaging software applications, great supplementary materials, and strong on-line support.
– Review of Dino 101 by BestCerts User 

Human Evolution

Biswarup Ganguly [GFDL or CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

ASM246: Human Origins
Arizona State University via edX
Explore the scientific evidence for human evolution, our fossil relatives, and the place of humankind in the natural world in this credit-eligible course.
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Human Evolution: Past and Future
University of Wisconsin–Madison via Coursera
Introduction to the science of human origins, the fossil and archaeological record, and genetic ancestry of living and ancient human populations. The course emphasizes the ways our evolution touches our lives, including health and diet, and explores how deep history may shape the future of our species.
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Genes and the Human Condition (From Behavior to Biotechnology)
University of Maryland, College Park via Coursera
To acquire an understanding of the fundamental concepts of genomics and biotechnology, and their implications for human biology, evolution, medicine, social policy and individual life path choices in the 21st century.
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Becoming Human: Anthropology
Macquarie University via Open2Study
Gain an introductory understanding of evolution, including how we evolved from primates and became human.
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Practical Importance of Human Evolution
The University of Oklahoma via Janux
In this course, we’ll discuss the topic of why human evolution is important to study and understand. This fully online course does not expect you to have any prior background in biological science, but a few foundational concepts in biology will be introduced early on in the course. During this course you will participate in online activities, watch online videos and custom animations, and interact with your peers in collaborative settings.
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Origins of Human Language – Birds, Monkeys, and Humans
via EdCast
In this course, we will look at the human language from the perspective of evolution: How did human language emerge in evolution? To get at this issue, we will look at a number of issues having to do with human language, the development of the brain, and a variety of proposals about language in evolution, including the Integration Hypothesis that the instructor recently proposed with colleagues.
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Looking for more? Check out our complete list of Science free online courses.