Animal Biology: Principles and Mechanisms

The central theme of this module is to cover aspects of comparative Zoology including different life history stages and different levels of organisation – from cellular to organismal.



Year Two

20 Credits

Animals display specific adaptations in their morphology, physiology, and behaviour to the environments they live in. These adaptations reflect the ecological diversity and adaptive radiation of animals. During this module we will explore common and distinct elements of early development in animals and how environmental adaptation has shaped early life history stages. We will also focus on understanding how animals perceive their environment by utilising a variety of species- and environment-specific sensory system and how this information is processed and integrated by the brain to regulate physiology and behaviour in order to maintain homeostasis.

We will examine how development, sensory systems, neurobiology and behaviour influence the ways animals manage adaptation to their environments and cope with the challenges that these pose, which also reflects the ecological diversity and adaptive radiation of animal species. It will also consider animals’ responses to dynamic changes in environments, such as those caused by extreme environments, climate change, environmental problems and urbanisation. The module consists of lectures, practicals and interactive tutorials, i.e. workshops that will build the foundation for the practical work and encourage independent active learning.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the module students should be able to:

  • Demonstrate an understanding of different animal systems and how they are morphologically, physiologically, and behaviourally adapted to the environments they live in, ranging from invertebrates to humans.
  • Explain the principles and mechanisms of the generation of behaviour by the nervous system and sensory coding by the sense organs and the brain, i.e. the difference between sensation and perception and the processing and integration of neural information, and use this knowledge to model the integration of environmental information and its translation into complex behaviour
  • Answer specific questions on how animals form during their development to cope with changing environments and extreme environmental challenges.
  • Collect, record, handle and interpret scientific data and apply practical and manipulative laboratory skills. 


Exam (60%), Coursework (40%)