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Module BSX-3144:
Animal Survival Strategies

Module Facts

Run by School of Natural Sciences

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 2

Organiser: Prof Nia Whiteley

Overall aims and purpose

On successful completion of the module, students will:

  1. Summarise the strategies used by animals to avoid the extremes of environmental conditions.

  2. Understand why animals have evolved complex and precise biological clocks with which to control a wide range of biological processes and rhythms.

  3. Have knowledge of how animals use timekeeping skills to predict environmental events, optimise their life-history strategies, and how they assist them to orient and navigate over the surface of the earth.

  4. Appreciate the problems presented to animals by freezing temperatures, lack of water and reduction in oxygen levels, and be able to outline the strategies needed to overcome these problems.

Course content

The module will concentrate on the behavioural and physiological strategies shown by animals to either avoid or survive extreme environments. Consideration will be given to those organisms that are able to survive extremes of environmental temperature and dehydration stress as well as reductions in oxygen levels. The module will describe ways in which animals avoid the extremes of environmental variation by showing rhythmic behaviour patterns, either on a daily, annual, or lunar basis. Avoidance strategies, such as torpor, hibernation and migration will also be covered. Case studies will be used throughout and include both invertebrate and vertebrate examples from a diversity of habitats.

Assessment Criteria


The students should be able to express a basic factual knowledge of at least some part of the core material presented in the module, and be able to appreciate how the physiology of an organism fits it for its environment.


The student should be able to express a thorough factual knowledge of much of the core material presented in the module, and have a competent and detailed ability to critically evaluate the principles and processes governing the interactions of organisms and their environment. Some evidence of further reading and ability to integrate material from the full range of the lecture content.


The student should demonstrate comprehensive factual knowledge, critical understanding of theory, evidence of extra reading of primary literature and the ability to integrate this extra knowledge in a relevant manner.

Learning outcomes

  1. Engagement with the essential facts, major concepts, principles and theories associated with the adaptations shown by animals to extreme environments (Benchmark 3.1).

  2. Demonstrate an appreciation of the complexity and diversity of life processes through the study of organisms, their molecular, cellular and physiological processes (Benchmark 3.3).

  3. Demonstrate an ability to analyse, synthesise and summarise information critically (Benchmark 3.5).

  4. Develop practical skills, and interpersonal and teamwork skills by working jointly with other students to undertake a short practical project. (Benchmarks 3.4, 3.7 & 3.8).

  5. Develop the skills necessary for developing the skills necessary for self-managed and lifelong learning (Benchmark 3.9).

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
Practical assessment (Various hand in dates) 20
Review Essay 30
Final Exam 50

Teaching and Learning Strategy


22 x 1 h lectures.


3 hours of practical work related to the lecture content and entitled Thermal Responses and Exercise.

Work-based learning

At the beginning of the lecture series, the students will have to decide on a topic for a review essay which will be related to the content of the course.


Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Numeracy - Proficiency in using numbers at appropriate levels of accuracy
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
  • Safety-Consciousness - Having an awareness of your immediate environment, and confidence in adhering to health and safety regulations
  • Teamwork - Able to constructively cooperate with others on a common task, and/or be part of a day-to-day working team

Subject specific skills

  • Consider issues from a range of interdisciplinary perspectives.
  • Apply subject knowledge to the understanding and addressing of problems.
  • Collect, analyse and interpret primary and/or secondary data using appropriate qualitative and/or quantitative techniques.
  • Appreciation of the complexity and diversity of life processes through the study of organisms.
  • Undertake practical work to ensure competence in basic experimental skills.


Resource implications for students

Laboratory coat. No

Talis Reading list

Pre- and Co-requisite Modules

Courses including this module

Optional in courses: