Drawing of a fictional animal (top) and its “rudimentary unidirectional lung” and direction of air flow during respiration (bottom). The writing above the animal (bottom) states “[T]he body of this animal is very long to accomidate [sic] the rudimentary unidirectional lung, as well as to allow for decreased water resistance while swimming.” [Used with permission.]
Questions discussed and/or assigned to guide students through the analysis
1. After circulation and respiration
Does the circulatory fit with the respiratory system? Why or why not? Your explanation cannot be only because the combination already exists in a real animal. It might be helpful to draw a diagram of the systems, to help you figure it out. This diagram may be included in your report.
If not, think about what combinations would work well together. But, you may want to decide which one you should change later on, based on the other systems.
2. After the excretory systems and digestion
Does the excretory system fit with the digestive system? Why or why not? Your explanation cannot be only because the combination already exists in a real animal.
With this in mind, do you need to change its circulatory or respiratory system and, if so, how?
If the excretory and digestive systems do not fit together, which one should change in order to accommodate the animals’ circulatory and respiratory systems?
3. After thermoregulation
Do you think it can actually conduct its thermoregulation strategy given the design of its other four systems? Why or why not? Your explanation cannot be only because the combination already exists in a real animal.
If not, what should it be?
Additional questions given with each question set above (considering two systems at a time, for each combination of systems.)
What might be an adaptive advantage of the combination of the systems you were assigned?
What might be an adaptive disadvantage of the combination of the systems you were assigned?
What trade-offs in function and efficiency might be seen in the interaction between systems?
What constraints might be placed on the physiological processes of each system by the combination of anatomic structures found in your animal?
Additional instructions for the final report
List the original systems your animal was assigned. Explain why they were or were not likely to work well together. Use the seven questions above (from laboratory discussions) as a guide to outline your explanations. Note: You will not get credit for explaining that systems work only because those systems are present together in a real animal. You must explain how/why the systems work together in your fictional animal.
If you needed to change one or more of your systems, describe this. What systems did your animal end up with? Why would this work better than the original animal? Describe for each change made. You cannot get credit for changing a system only to make it fit into a complete animal that you have already imagined, an environment, or a real animal that you modeled your animal after. You can only change a system because it is not compatible with another system.
Describe an environment it would thrive in (earthly or otherwise). Be specific (e.g., deep ocean, temperate forest, arctic tundra, Mars, etc.). Explain why the animal thrives in that environment. Include what elements of its climate are compatible with the animal or how the animal functions and how it is affected by and navigates/lives in this particular environment.
Grading rubric for the assignment
Characteristic (Point Value)
System integration (50%)
Systems and thermoregulatory strategy are compatible with each other as described in the final version of the animal for ____. All 5 systems (20) ____; 4 systems (15): ____; 3 systems (10) ____; 2 systems (5): ____; 1 or 0 systems (0): ____
The descriptions of compatibility explain why they work together:
____ Reasoning logical and explained fully for the 5 systems (30)
____ Reasoning flawed or incomplete for 3–4 systems (20−29)
____ Reasoning flawed or incomplete for 2–3 systems (10−19)
____ Reasoning flawed or incomplete for 0–1 systems (0−9)
Systems integration total
Changes to original animal (20%)
Changes made to system types were necessary for ____. All changes (10): ____; most changes (6−9): ____; half changes (5): ____; little change (1−4): ____; no changes (0): ____
Explanations of why changes were needed were complete and logical for ____. All changes (10): ____; most changes (6−9): ____; half changes (5): ____; little change (1−4): ____; no changes (0): ____
If applicable (if not, total is out of 80), changes to original animal total
____ Specific environment is appropriate for animal (6)
____ Nonspecific environment is appropriate for animal (2−5)
____ Environment is not appropriate for animal (0−1)
Explained how animal and its systems are compatible with the environment ____. Logical (6): ____; illogical or incomplete (2−5): ____; illogical and incomplete (0−1): ____
Description of how animal functions/lives/is affected by environment
____ Present and consistent between the animal and its environment (3)
____ Present but inconsistent between the animals and its environment (1−2)
____ Absent (0)
Overall description (10%)
Backbone, body design, appendages, covering, size, etc. selections
____ All consistent within the animal and its physiological systems (8)
____ Some inconsistent within animal or with its systems (3−7)
____ Most or all inconsistent within animal and/or its systems (0−2)
____ Drawing/description clear and informative (0−2)
Overall description total
General criteria (5%)
____ Writing style clear with proper grammar and spelling (0−3)
____ References cited with appropriate format (0−2)
General criteria total
____/80 or ____/100
Responses from the end-of-semester, open-ended student survey questions used in three sections
Students Whose Response Included “Yes”
Number of Students/Total
Did designing your fictional animal help you understand how physiological systems function together and are integrated?
Did choosing the environment where you animal would live help you understand how physiological systems work together, so the animal can response to environmental conditions and challenges?
Did you gain a new of deeper awareness and appreciation of trade-offs in function and efficiency as well as physiological constraints placed on an animal in its environment?
Cover: From material detailed in the following article: Bell FE, Wilson LB, Hoppmann RA. Using ultrasound to teach medical students cardiac physiology. Adv Physiol Educ 39: 392–396, 2015; doi:10.1152/advan.00123.2015.