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Unit information: Animal and Plant Physiology in 2021/22

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name Animal and Plant Physiology
Unit code BIOL20022
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Dietrich
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Biological Sciences
Faculty Faculty of Life Sciences

Description including Unit Aims

Physiology is an exciting sub-discipline of biology that focuses primarily on understanding the mechanisms of living organisms. The integration of molecular, cellular, systems and whole-body function is what clearly distinguishes physiology from other life sciences. Research in physiology is essential for understanding how different organisms function in their habitats, and how their cells and systems adapt in response to challenges, such as disease and/or changes in the local environment. This unit will inspire you to explore physiological mechanisms across a wide range of living organisms. You will be guided through physiological mechanisms that are common to plants and animals, including nutrition, water balance and hormonal regulation. You will also explore physiological systems common to invertebrates and vertebrates, including circulatory, respiratory, musculoskeletal, urogenital and endocrine systems. These will be compared and contrasted directly with the equivalent plant systems of vacuole turgor pressure and plant hormones such as auxins. A key aim of this unit is for you to begin integrating different physiological systems; for example, how do animals that rely on the atmosphere for O2 meet their metabolic demands when diving for extended periods, how do plants balance out the need for structural support with nutrient acquisition, and how does the bar-headed goose (Anser indicus) regulate cellular homeostasis when facing a reduced partial pressure of O2 in the ambient air at altitude.

Intended Learning Outcomes

By the end of this unit a successful student will be able to:

Knowledge and understanding

  • Discuss how the behaviour of cells, tissues and organs govern the functioning of internal systems (e.g. circulatory, respiratory and endocrine systems)
  • Discuss the molecular and cellular basis of primary and secondary mechanisms coupling the stimulation of receptors or ion channels to tissue responses (e.g. contraction of skeletal, cardiac and smooth muscle; water and nutrient uptake in plants; secretion of hormones)
  • Discuss the integrated behaviour of organ systems in the maintenance of homeostasis (e.g. fluid balance, control of pressure, regulation of gases)
  • Discuss the way positive and negative feedback mechanisms operate in different organisms to detect, respond and adapt to internal and external challenges (e.g. exercise, diet, altitude, heat/cold, light levels)
  • Apply methods to obtain measurements of physiological function and evaluate these data in both animals and plants.

All of the Intended Learning Outcomes will be assessed via both the end of unit assessment and continuous assessment.

Teaching Information

Lectures or blended delivery, directed reading, research and/or problem-solving activities, practical exercises and independent study.

Assessment Information

Coursework (40%) plus end of unit written assessment (60%) with one essay question to be selected from a choice of two.


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. BIOL20022).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.