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The University of Southampton

BIOL2018 Adaptive Physiology

Module Overview

This module provides insight in various aspects of adaptive animal physiology including the regulation of immunity, circulation, reproduction, osmotic state, respiration, body temperature, and developmental transitions. The way that these systems have evolved adaptive differences across the animal kingdom is a topic of particular interest. A second major focus is concerned with the regulatory principles that allow individual animals to adjust their physiological systems to cope with changes in their environment.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • describe the functions and design of circulatory systems in a wide range of animal groups;
  • distinguish different immune defence systems employed across the animal kingdom
  • compare the role of osmoregulation in the physiology of different animal groups
  • critically discuss adaptive physiological changes associated with developmental transitions in animals and humans using metamorphosis in insects and human neonatal changes in respiration and circulation as examples
  • illustrate the physiological adaptations developed by animals that allow them to remain submerged for prolonged periods;
  • describe the physiological challenges and medical consequences of deep sea diving in humans and how technological methods are used to compensate for a lack of physiological adaptations;
  • provide an overview of the similarities and differences of reproductive strategies in different animal groups;
  • explain the relationship between animal physiology, temperature and the external environment and adaptations to survival in an extended range of temperatures;
  • design, carry out and write up an experimental project.


This module will cover a range of physiological systems and the way that they adapt to changing conditions both within and between animal species. Topics currently covered are physiological adaptations in circulation, immune defence, respiration, osmoregulation, reproduction, endocrine, and temperature regulation. The evolution of these systems across the animal kingdom will be related to differences in body plan, life style, and habitat. Moreover, regulatory mechanisms will be explored that allow individual animals to adapt their physiology to environmental changes such as those associated with diving, exposure to extreme temperatures, and birth.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Lectures, practical project and independent study.

Independent Study110
Practical classes and workshops18
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Eckert (D. Randall, W. Burgren, K. French) (2002). Animal Physiology. 

Guyton and Hall (2011). Textbook of Medical Physiology. 

Moyes, CD and Schulte, PM (2013). Principles of Animal Physiology. 

K. Schmidt-Nielsen (2013). Animal Physiology - Adaptation and Environment. 



MethodPercentage contribution
Laboratory project report 25%
Written exam  (2 hours) 75%


MethodPercentage contribution
Laboratory project report 25%
Written exam  (2 hours) 75%

Linked modules

BIOL1007 OR BIOL1008 OR BIOL1010 OR BIOL1011 OR BIOL1012 OR BIOL1013 OR BIOL1014 OR BIOL1022 OR CHEM1039 OR CHEM1012 (other first year modules may be accepted by agreement with the coordinator).

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