13535 - Animal Physiology

Course Unit Page

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

The Course is aimed at providing students the theoretical basis and methodological tools for learning and interpreting, under an evolutionary perspective, the physiological mechanisms and adaptive strategies that allow animals to survive and reproduce at the different environmental conditions.

Course contents

The perception of the environment

Sensory receptors (mechanoreceptors, electroreceptors, photoreceptors, magnetoreceptors, etc.) and their adaptations to perceive the chemical-physical variations of the external environment and organize physiological responses to keep the internal medium constant.

Effects of temperature

Biochemical and physiological adaptations to the variation of the external temperature. Temperature regulation. Ectothermic and endothermic. “Pecilothermia and homeothermia”. Thermoregulation and specialized metabolic states. Adaptations to cold and heat.

Muscles and movement

The various types of muscles. Locomotion on the mainland. Muscle and movement in aquatic animals. Locomotion in the air.


Breathing in water and air. Vertebrate adaptations to diving (reptiles, birds and marine mammals). High altitude breathing. The role of respiratory pigments.

Excretion and osmoregulation

Ammoniotelic, ureotelic and uricotelic animals. Osmoregulators and osmoconforms. The rectal gland of the elasmobranchs. The role of gills in the regulation of osmotic pressure in freshwater and saltwater vertebrates (catadromous and anadromous fish). The salt gland of reptiles and birds. The role of the kidneys in the various vertebrates.


Food strategies in different environments (including the use of poisons) and functional characteristics of the digestive system in the various vertebrates.


Alessandro Poli and Other Authors: Fisiologia Animale, Edises Editions (2018).

Alessandro Poli and Elena Fabbri: Fisiologia degli animali marini. Edises Editions (2018).

Teaching methods

Frontal lessons

Assessment methods

Oral examination

Teaching tools

Power Point presentation

Office hours

See the website of Alessandro Poli

See the website of Enzo Spisni