Module Identifier BS34210  
Academic Year 2007/2008  
Co-ordinator Professor Peter M Brophy  
Semester Semester 2  
Other staff Dr Judith Humphries, Dr Joanne V Hamilton  
Pre-Requisite BS20910, BS10210  
Course delivery Practical   2 x 3h practicals  
  Lecture   15 x 1h lectures  
  Seminars / Tutorials   4 x 3 h seminars  
Assessment TypeAssessment Length/DetailsProportion
Semester Exam2 Hours Two hour theory paper  70%
Semester Assessment Practical class written assessments submitted two weeks following last practical - 20%. Oral Presentation plus individual contribution to group seminars - 10%.  30%
Supplementary Exam2 Hours One two hour theory paper and re-submission of failed coursework or alternative  100%

Learning outcomes

On completion of this module, students should be able to-


The module builds on Modules BS10210-Principles of Animal Physiology, BS20910-Invertebrate Zoology and BS22410- Vertebrate Zoology to provide via a series of integrated lectures, seminars and practical classes an understanding of the physiological mechanisms used by animals to survive and thrive in their natural environments.


The module provides a physiological understanding of how invertebrate and vertebrate animals cope with problems, and make the most of opportunities in their respective natural environments. The module starts with a review of the concept of environmental animal physiology or eco-physiology in context with classical comparative animal physiology by 'systems' approaches. The meaning of environment and adaptation are re-examined, as are the fundamental mechanisms of adaptation and the central theme in physiology, and the inter-relationship of physiology with behavioural, ecological, evolutionary and life-history issues.

The key features of physiological strategies will then be examined in both invertebrate and vertebrate animals from selected aquatic, terrestrial and parasitic habitats. The aquatic block of lectures start with an examination of the physiological approaches for marine life, arguably the most trouble-free stable environment for animals on the planet, with most evolutionary innovations having been marine. However, the depth, pressure, buoyancy, locomotion and sensory problems that occur in the deeper waters of the sea will be explored, as will regulatory strategies of secondary invaders of seawater, the marine vertebrates, including airbreathers (birds, reptiles and mammals). The next section examines shoreline and estuary habitats, which unlike seawater are at the interface of air, water and land. These animals often have convergent evolutionary physiological design solutions for surviving in their respective cyclically altering niches. Freshwater life has many environmental variables, and it is not only physiological approaches that are important in survival. The final topic in the aquatic section investigates the physiological adaptations to extreme aquatic habitats, for example transient water bodies, osmotically peculiar habitats (salinity, acid & alkaline, oils) and thermally extreme waters (deep-sea vents, hot springs, sea-ice).

The key long-term and short-term physiological strategies for terrestrial habitats (living in air) will form the next section. The domination of arachnids, insects and vertebrates on land via supporting physiological mechanisms will be a focus of this lecture block. The final lectures on terrestrial life will consider convergent environmental adaptations in animals that endure extreme conditions such as hot and dry arid deserts, polar regions and altitudes. The module concludes with an assessment of the influence of human populations on other terrestrial animals.

Practical classes will allow the students to consolidate the lecture theory and develop skills in designing and executing their own experiments. The assessed practical reports will be in standard academic research format (introduction, materials & methods, results and discussion). There will be opportunity to manipulate numerical information by analysing data from laboratory practical classes and also via published data introduced during the lectures. Background IT skills, such as information retrieval on primary literature via internet science citation indexes are relevant to the theory paper and practical write-ups. Group seminars will provide further opportunities to develop IT and oral presentation skills. Oral presentations via PowerPoint will be assessed in these seminar sessions.

Reading Lists

** Essential Reading
Willmer, P et al. (2005) Environmental physiology of animals 2nd. Blackwell Science
** Recommended Text
Randall, D et al. (2002) Eckert's animal physiology: mechanisms & adaptations 5th. W.H. Freeman & Co., New York
Schmidt-Nielsen, K (1997) Animal physiology: adaptation and environment Cambridge University Press
Withers, P.C. (1992) Comparative animal physiology Saunders, New York


This module is at CQFW Level 6