Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Academic Year
Semester 2
Normally A or A/S level Biology or its equivalent
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Lecture 18 x 1h lectures
Practical 2 x 3h practicals (duplicated)


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Exam 2 Hours   Semester written examination.  70%
Semester Assessment 2 x practical reports (15% each)  30%
Supplementary Exam 2 Hours   written examination  70%
Supplementary Assessment re-submission of all failed course work  30%

Learning Outcomes

On completion of the module the student should

  • describe the key physiological principles that underpin animal and plant life.
  • discuss physiological adaptations in the context of environmental conditions.
  • critically evaluate experimental design, experimental performance, data interpretation and reporting using both animal and plant models.


This module is designed to draw together the fundamental principles underpinning animal and plant physiology via a series of integrated lectures, practical classes, video demonstrations and written assessments.


Physiology is the investigation of the functioning of a living organism and its component parts. It is an integrative science, studying how the different organ, tissue and cellular systems co-ordinate in the intact organism. A changing external environment (aquatic or terrestrial) usually presents the greatest problem for animals and plants and the module will explore physiology in relation to environmental conditions.
This module begins with a discussion of problems faced by animals and plants living in a variety of environments and describes the "solutions" that have evolved to overcome these issues. The lectures expand on other themes that form the basis for investigating animal and plant physiology, such as control, integration of function, metabolism and growth.
The first set of lectures in the control section describes the major features of animal sensory physiology (e.g. function and organisation, neurons, action potentials and synapses of nervous systems and components of a sensation, sensory pathways, receptor classification and neural circuitry). Plant sensory physiology and plant positioning is also discussed (e.g. gravitropism - response to gravity, phototropism - growth response to light, thigmomorphogenesis - growth response to mechanical action). The module then explores chemical communication (types of secretion, generalized animal exocrine and endocrine gland structure). The endocrine system of an animal is closely associated with the nervous system, and neurons and hormones often work together to control a single process. Animal hormones influence behaviour via sensory mechanisms, activity in the central nervous system and effector mechanisms. Plant hormones are involved in the control of growth and development. Therefore, a set of lectures will explore the basis of hormonal activity (structure, mechanisms of action, transport and elimination/degradation) and the structure and function of key animal endocrine glands e.g. pituitary, thyroid and adrenals. The final lecture set in this block describes the motor systems in animals that produce adaptive responses. Animal motor systems consist of motor organ (muscles) and the neural circuits that control them.
The integration section starts with an assessment of the key elements of fluid transport in animals and plant. The animal circulatory system (basic parts and diversity, the concept of open and closed circulation, structure of the heart, arteries, capillaries and veins) and the concept of cardiovascular control is explored. The transport of water and solutes is considered in plants (e.g. xylem and associated cells - tracheids, vessel elements, fibres, parenchyma and phloem). An understanding of transport systems logically allows a consideration of respiration in animals (i.e. the basic components of a gas-transfer system, transport of gases in blood, functional anatomy of gas-exchange and function of haemoglobin). The structure and function of lungs, control of respiration and types of breathing in animals are also examined. Plants do not have a pumping mechanism for moving gasses and rely on diffusion and bulk flow. Transpiration, evapotranspiration, translocation and stomatal regulation of gas exchange are considered in plants.
The module will also review the relationship between ionic and osmotic balance (osmosis/osmotic concentration and water/ion budgets) and mechanisms used by animals and plants to respond to change in their environment. The effect of temperature change on physiological and behavioural processes is also investigated.
The lecture course concludes with a study of heterotrophy (organisms which obtain their nutrients from the environments, e.g. animals) and autotrophy (organisms which can make their own nutrients e.g. plants).
The practical sessions with living animals (behavioural physiology in beetles) and plants (phloem transport and stomatal movements) develop the key issues that are raised in the lectures. There are no dissections

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number Collection and scrutiny of data in terms of quality and quantity. Data interpretation.
Communication The production of balanced practical reports. Students will develop effective listening skills for the lectures and subsequent discussion in practical classes. Students will develop effective written communication skills in examinations and continuous assessment.
Improving own Learning and Performance Outside the formal contact hours, students will be expected to research materials, manage time and meet deadlines. The directed study elements will provide opportunity for students to explore their own learning styles and preferences and identify their needs and barriers to learning. Students will be able to review and monitor their progress and plan for improvement of personal performance.
Information Technology Students will develop skills in accessing the web for information sources and using databases to find primary literature. The use of software packages will be required to produce practical reports.
Personal Development and Career planning Students will gain confidence in their ability to evaluate biological problems and objectively assess the quality of proposed solutions.
Problem solving Through the lectures students will become aware of specific environmental problems faced by animals and plants and the solutions that have evolved to overcome these issues. Practical classes will allow students to gain experience in designing, executing, interpreting data and writing-up assessed physiology experiments using both animal and plant models. Students will develop creative approaches to experimental design, critically evaluate their proposed solutions and construct rational proposals in response to experimental challenge.
Research skills Students will research topics beyond the depth and scope of the lecture material using both directed and independent study. Information from a variety of sources will be the object of scrutiny and comment. Practical classes will allow the development of key biological research skills at an early stage of their academic careers.
Subject Specific Skills Students will be able to describe the key physiological principles that underpin animal and plant life. Students will be able to discuss physiological adaptations within the context of changing environmental conditions. Students will gain key skills in manipulating invertebrate and plant specimens.
Team work Students will work in pairs/small groups during practical sessions. They will need to discuss their experimental design and work effectively as a small team in practical classes.

Reading List

Reference Text
Kay, I. (2002) Introduction to Animal Physiology Oxford: Bios Scientific Publishers Ltd Primo search Randall, D. et al Eckert's Animal Physiology: mechanisms & adaptations 5th New York: W.H. Freeman & Co Primo search Schmidt-Nielsen, K. (1997) Animal Physiology: adaptation and environment Cambridge University Press Primo search Willmer, P. et al. Environmental Physiology of Animals 2nd Oxford: Blackwell Science Primo search
Recommended Background
Campbell, N. and Reece, J. (2005) Biology 7th Primo search


This module is at CQFW Level 4