Biology Education Centre

Animal Structure and Function

Level: Bachelor level
Course code: 1BG203
Credits: 15 hp
More info: Course syllabus
Student portal: Schedule and course material

How do animals work? That is the fundamental question underlying the new course "Animal Structure and Function." Animals are immensely complex and integrated multicellular organisms: their organs work in fine-tuned cooperation to allow the animal to perceive its surroundings, move, eat, reproduce and maintain homeostasis. Animals differ in this respect from other multicellular organisms such as plants and fungi, which have less integrated anatomies. How do these integrated systems work in different animals? Why do animals look the way they do? How have they been shaped by evolution, and why have they sometimes found completely different solutions to the same functional problems?

The course is aimed at students with a basic knowledge of animal diversity: it zooms in on particular groups of animals and examines them in detail from a functional perspective. We take a closer look at the tissues that make up their bodies, examine their physiology and sense organs, and study their muscles and skeletons (hard or hydrostatic? external or internal?) both from a general mechanical perspective and specifically in relation to the lifestyle of the particular organism. In addition to lectures and seminars the course includes practical components, notably a series of dissections of representatives from different animal groups.

We continue the tradition from the Zoomorphology course (in many respects the predecessor of Animal Structure and Function) of using the most interesting and diverse range of dissection specimens we can obtain: hagfish, python, tortoise, badger - maybe even a grey seal or a porpoise! The kinds of animals will vary somewhat from year to year, but we can promise that the dissections will always be interesting and informative. We are also planning an annual trip to the west coast to collect and study marine animals.

Is Animal Structure and Function the course for you? Well, it is highly relevant for anyone contemplating a career as a biology teacher, and to anyone expecting to work with animals or do research on them, but the simplest way to tell is to ask yourself this question:

The lynx and the toad are two predators in the Swedish fauna. Both are vertebrates with exactly the same complement of major organs - head, backbone, forelimbs and hind limbs, lungs, liver, skin and so forth - and both are descended from a common ancestor that lived at some point in the remote past. Yet for all that, they are utterly different in physiology, body shape, and lifestyle. Why have they turned out that way?

If you find that you want to know the answer to that question, you will enjoy this course.

For more information, please contact:
Irene Söderhäll (irene.soderhall@ebc.uu.se)