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BSc Neuroscience / Course details

Year of entry: 2020

Course unit details:
Animal Physiology

Unit code BIOL21281
Credit rating 10
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by School of Biological Sciences
Available as a free choice unit? No


You will gain an understanding of comparative animal physiology covering both invertebrate and vertebrate animals. The emphasis of this unit is on mechanisms and the evolution of these systems in the context of how they function to allow animals to cope with different and changing environments. You will learn how the physiological plasticity of animals (the ability to change their characteristics) is key to success in a changing environment. Topics include cardio-respiratory sytems, digestion, metabolism, osmoregulation and how internal clocks time hibernation and how animals maintain their optimal water and ion balance.


To study phenotypic plasticity across different levels of biological organisation and to understand how this allows animals to adapt to their environment. To study mechanisms of physiological adaption in response to environmental challenges including: thermoregulation, osmoregulation, gas convection and respiration in vertebrate and invertebrate animals.

Learning outcomes

An understanding of invertebrate and vertebrate animal physiology, emphasising control mechanisms and response strategies used to cope with different external environments. Students will appreciate how physiological plasticity is key to maintaining and adjusting physiological processes in terrestrial and aquatic animals.


The nature and fundamental mechanisms of environmental adaptation will be discussed under the broad lecture themes of:

• Osmoregulation and excretion

• Respiratory systems

• Cardiovascular systems

• Muscle systems

• Energy & Metabolism

• Thermoregulation

• Clocks and hibernation


eLearning activity

All lecture slides will be posted on Blackboard. Journal articles that support the lecture material, and interactive learning tools specifically created to enhance learning, will be available online. Self-assessment exercises will be provided throughout and four online summative assessments will contribute to your overall unit mark.

Employability skills

Problem solving
Online coursework in the form of multiple answer questions requires a small degree of problem solving.
You will be encouraged to extract additional information from the published literature through additional reading.
Written communication
Examinations are essay based.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Other 10%
Written exam 90%

1.5 hour written examination (two essay questions from a choice of five; 90%), four e-learning assessments (2.5% each)

Feedback methods

You will receive feedback from eLearning exercises and assessments during the course. A drop-in clinic after the exam will allow feedback on exam performance.

Recommended reading

  • Hill, Wyse & Anderson (2012) Animal Physiology (3rd edition). Sinauer Associates (recommended)

  • Willmer P, Stone G & Johnston I (2004) Environmental Physiology of Animals (2nd Edition). Blackwell Science (recommended)

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 1.3
Lectures 22
Independent study hours
Independent study 76.7

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Jonathan Codd Unit coordinator

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