BIOU5AP: Animal Physiology

CO-ORDINATOR: Dr Tim Whalley 
Dr Luc Bussière

Course Objectives

  • Extend the breadth and depth of knowledge obtained from units such as BIO2IP and BIO4BD
  • Develop a critical appreciation of key concepts in animal (including human) physiology
  • Develop an understanding of how the physiological challenges of marine habitats are overcome
  • Study the multiple and dynamic selective pressures on signalling physiology and metabolic networks
  • Develop an understanding of physiological adaptations when the mammalian immune system is challenged

Learning Outcomes

  • An integrated understanding of physiological mechanisms
  • Understanding of factors influencing the adaptations and responses of organisms to particular environments
  • Awareness of the evolutionary processes that have shaped physiological adaptations
  • Generic skills in the evaluation and synthesis of scientific information
  • Development of verbal and written communication skills


Teaching Programme

28 x 1 hour lectures, 3 per week.
5 compulsory practical classes.

Course Assessment

  • Attendance and participation in labs 5%
  • Digestion and blood sugar lab report 15%
  • Cardiovascular physiology lab report 15%
  • Infection and thermoregulation lab report 15%
  • Examination (4 essay questions) 50%


  • A timetable, lecture slides, practical schedules and course information and other material will be made available on the course Succeed site which can be accessed through the portal
  • You should visit the Succeed site regularly in case there are changes to the timetable and also to view or post notices

Recommended Texts

  • Willmer, Stone and Johnston (2004). Environmental Physiology of Animals. Blackwell Science, Oxford.
  • Widmaier, Raff and Strang (2008). Vander, Sherman, Luciano’s Human Physiology. 11th Edition, McGraw-Hill

The following may also prove to be useful:

  • Hickman, Roberts and Larson (2004). Integrated Principles of Zoology. 12th Edition, McGraw-Hill
  • Randall, Burggren and French (2001). Eckert’s Animal Physiology. 5th Edition. Freeman


Human Physiology (Tim Whalley: 15 lectures)
This set of lectures will begin by discussing intercellular signalling mechanisms in physiology: endocrinology and neurophysiology. The roles of hormonal and neuronal signalling in controlling a number of physiological processes will then be discussed. The processes to be discussed are cardiac physiology, digestion, absorption and utilisation of food and reproductive physiology.

Marine Physiology (Luc Bussière: 4 lectures)
The marine habitat is the largest and least understood on earth: we know more about the moon’s surface than the ocean’s floor. These lectures review the physiological challenges of living in the marine environment and how its animal inhabitants overcome these. They will discuss the mechanisms for maintaining thermal and osmotic homeostasis, and adaptations permitting gaseous exchange. Finally we discuss how animals exploit possibly the planet’s most extreme ecosystem: the deep sea.

Immunology (Luc Bussière and Tim Whalley: 5 lectures)
Parasites inhabit environments which pose unique physiological challenges. The habitat of the host’s body may buffer parasites from climatic variation; however, hosts mount aggressive immune defences which parasites must resist, suppress or evade to avoid death. The first 2 lectures investigate parasites’ physiological adaptations for transmission between and survival within hosts, and discuss how some manipulate host behaviour to aid their own survival. The final 3 lectures will discuss the innate and acquired immune systems in humans. How are humans able to fight off infectious organisms, and how are we able to respond to the same pathogen in a much more robust fashion following a first encounter with that pathogen? We shall concentrate on cell physiological aspects of the human immune system.

Evolutionary dynamics in physiological systems (Luc Bussière: 3 lectures)
The study of animal function would be incomplete without an appreciation of the dynamic selective processes that shape it. In three lectures, we will study signalling physiology and metabolic networks as examples of functional systems that show remarkable evidence of the evolutionary processes that had produced them. The lectures will include a review of the fundamentals of signalling physiology at cellular, intra-specific, and inter-specific levels, and pay special attention to the role of co-evolutionary struggles between genotypes with divergent interests in driving signal and receiver systems. We will finish by considering the complexity of biochemical networks, and the extent to which this complexity buffers organismal function and simultaneously increases “evolvability” that may lead to evolutionary innovations.

Practical Classes

You will be split into a number of groups for practical classes. You will have to sign up for groups for each practical class by filling in the forms that will be provided on WebCT. It will be your responsibility to ensure you attend the appropriate class and you will not be able to change group without permission of the coordinator of the class.

  1. Human anatomy
  2. Report writing skills
  3. Cardiovascular Physiology
  4. Digestion and blood sugar regulation
  5. Infection and thermoregulation
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