Course Unit Page

Academic Year 2018/2019

Learning outcomes

The course aims to provide advanced knowledge on the molecular mechanisms behind physiological processes of sensing and coping with the marine environment in aquatic animals. Special focus is on the control of gene expression at the transcriptional and post-transcriptional level. At the end of the course, the student is able to describe the main and most advanced methods employed in molecular physiology research.

Course contents

Part I – Molecular basis of adaptation to the marine environment:

  • Temperature challenges: strategies of stress response in thermally stable or variable environments
  • Depth environments: coping with low light and high hydrostatic pressure
  • Ocean acidification: effects on calcifying organisms.

Part II – Sensory perception in the marine environment: molecular and cellular mechanisms.

  • Mechanical senses: the ability to detect changes in water flow; the lateral line of fish; organs of equilibrium in invertebrates and vertebrates.
  • Electroreception: fish ampullar and tuberous organs; generation of strong and weak electric fields; electroreception in aquatic mammals.
  • Magnetic field perception: the magnetic compass of marine animals and the migratory behavior; molecular mechanisms behind magnetoreception.
  • Chemical senses: chemoreceptors; behavioral functions of chemoreception; chemoreception in mollusks, crustacea, and fish.
  • Vision adaptation to the marine environment: evolution of eyes in marine animals; photoreceptors; non-visual photoreception in cephalopods and the camouflage behavior.


  • Book (in italian): A. Poli, E. Fabbri. Fisiologia degli animali marini. II Eds. Edises
  • Note files loaded online (in Italian): https://iol.unibo.it/course/view.php?id=23150
  • Scientific articles (in English) uploaded online and discussed during the lessons



Teaching methods

class lectures

Assessment methods

Final oral examination 

The oral examination will assess the knowledge and critique discussion of the topics presented during the class lectures. The starting point of the oral examination will be the in-depth discussion of one topic chosen by the student amongst those discussed during the class lectures.

Teaching tools

powerpoint slides; scientific articles and multimedia material. Class lectures and peer-to-peer discussion 

Office hours

See the website of Silvia Franzellitti