BSc Zoology

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Animal Physiology

Course unit fact file
Unit code BIOL21281
Credit rating 10
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? No


You will gain an understanding of comparative animal physiology. Physiology is the study of how animal’s function at levels from the cell to the whole organism. You will also learn about the physiological plasticity of animals and how the ability adapt these systems is key to living in a changing environment. Topics include cardio-respiratory systems, digestion, metabolism, osmoregulation and how internal clocks time hibernation and how animals maintain their optimal water and ion balance. This course explores physiological processes from a comparative perspective, examining how physiological innovation has underpinned the evolution of animals.



To study physiological 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 animals.

Learning outcomes

An understanding of animal physiology, emphasising how to compare and contrast the physiological processes across different animal groups that govern their day to day function. Students will gain an appreciation of how response strategies are used to cope with different external environments and 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
Written exam 70%
Set exercise 30%

1.5h exam 70% (1 essay from a choice of 4)

Infographic abstract 30% 

Feedback methods

You will receive feedback from eLearning exercises and coursework assessments during the course. A online drop-in clinic will be available after the exam will allow feedback on exam performance if requested.

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 1.5
Lectures 22
Independent study hours
Independent study 76.5

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Jonathan Codd Unit coordinator

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