Animal Ecophysiology in Changing Environments (3 ECTS)

Semester: 2nd


Coordinators: Adelino Canário ( and Pedro Guerreiro (

Scope: The aim is to provide the students with a global view on how physiological mechanisms are selected to match the pressure of the environment, how life in extreme environments is made possible by specialized physiological systems, how climate change may impact individuals and populations and how such effects can be measured at the level of the individual physiology.

Upon completion of this course it is expected that the students can:

  1. understand the interplay of the different physiological mechanisms to maintain afunctional organism
  2. understand how these mechanisms have evolved and were selected to allow such organisms to adapt to different external living conditions
  3. perspective the putative physiological effects on different animals as a consequence of changes in the surrounding environment
  4. use several techniques to tackle questions on the functioning of the physiological systems at different levels (molecular, cellular, organ or organism) and conditions
  5. be able to critically analyse and review published reports in the subjects of physiology, adaptation and environmental change
  6. be able to identify gaps and research directions, in relation to physiology and climate change
  7. be able to design, discuss and carry out a short experimental project
  8. effectively analyse, summarise and present their results clearly and informatively but from a scientific perspective


15 h of lectures + 6 h of tutorials + 9 h of lab work + 54 h of independent work.


Please enroll in this elective unit at the academic services.



Evaluation: test or exam (50%), paper presentation (10%), written essay and oral presentation of a short practical project (40%).


  1. Introduction to Ecophysiology and brief recapitulation on Animal Physiology
  2. Physiological Plasticity, Evolution, Selection, Adaptation and Acclimation
  3. Environmental limiting factors, Oxygen, Temperature, Salinity, Water availability, Pressure, Nutrients
  4. Oxygen consumption, metabolic rate and respiratory scope, physiology of oxygen transport and supply
  5. Thermal regulation, Hibernation, Energy metabolism
  6. Osmoregulation and Acid-base Balance in terrestrial, marine, freshwater, transitionaquatic environments and migratory species
  7. Stress response: acute, chronic, and acclimation
  8. Extreme Environments: Terrestrial systems and aquatic/marine systems
  9. Coping with the environment: Specialized adaptations in Polar regions, Deserts, Ocean depths, High Altitude and Aerial
  10. Climate Change: disruptive effects of global warming, ocean acidification, water restriction, salinization, mismatch of environmental cues on animal physiology
  11. Conservation Physiology and applications to Fisheries and Aquaculture
  12. Winners and losers. Extinction, Invasion and species re-distribution in future scenarios.