An introduction to animal biology

Gaining an understanding of the basic biology and behaviour of the species that you work with is critical to the success of your research work. The ways in which we breed, house, transport and handle animals, and the way in which we conduct procedures, can all influence animal welfare. These factors can also influence the animals’ physiology and their responses to specific research procedures. This can bias research data, or increase the variability of the data, so increasing the number of animals needed for an appropriately powered study.


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Study outcomes can be influenced by very many characteristics of the animals used and the environment in which they are housed, so it is essential that detailed records are maintained by both the animal facility and by individual research workers. For example, the source, date of supply, housing method, diet, and environmental data should all be recorded. More specific details of some of these factors are given in the articles on Animal Care, Health and Management.

When carrying out procedures, or obtaining tissue samples post-mortem, a good knowledge of the anatomy of the animal is essential. This module provides basic information in relation to anatomy and physiological features, including reproduction and behavior. Routine animal husbandry and enrichment practices of the common laboratory species are dealt with in the articles on Animal Care, Health and Management. The bibliography accompanying these notes provides sources of more detailed information on each of these topics.

Updated on 12th May 2020

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