Animal biology section

Section Chair: Shaun Killen, University of Glasgow, UK

The Animal Section of the SEB has a diverse range of interests on whole-organism biology. But we are also interested at the links to cellular processes at lower levels of biological organisation, as well as associations between physiology, locomotion and behaviour in the context of ecophysiology or ecology. However, the core theme is the biology of the whole organism.

Our Scientific interest groups

An interest group is simply a theme to represent the interests of SEB members.
The Animal Section has a number of special interest groups covering different areas of animal biology that you are welcome to join. But these boundaries are not fixed scientifically and the groups share scientific events and interests.

The interest groups help to organise sessions at our Annual Conference and our Symposia. Each interest group is headed by a group convenor and, along with our co-opted member, make up the SEB Animal Section Committee.

The groups include biomechanics, osmoregulation, animal respiration, neurobiology, conservation physiology. Information about the different Animal Section interest groups can be found here.



Individuals within the same species can differ substantially in their morphology, physiology and behaviour. This variation can arise from intrinsic factors, such as genetic inheritance, age, sex, and reproductive status, but also from environmental factors such as habitat quality, temperature, food availability, and social dynamics. The combined influence of these factors is complex and can cause permanent phenotypic effects that can carry-over to subsequent generations. Understanding the degree and source of individual variability are also key for understanding the ability of populations to cope with environmental change. For this theme, we seek contributions that explore this complexity and explore the eco-evolutionary implications of individual variation within species. 


The life cycle of animals includes transitions from one life-stage to another with the ultimate goal of successful reproduction. Studies of wild populations suggest potential changes in reproduction, development, and the timing of critical life-history events due to changes in environmental conditions, including climate change, with potentially broad consequences for population viability. Within this theme, we invite sessions focused on current research in animal reproduction and development, including fecundity, endocrine regulation, metabolism, mate-choice, breeding, as well as the ecological, evolutionary, and conservation implications of changes in these traits. Sessions may also include topics on other life-stage transitions and senescence, and how these are affected by ongoing environmental change.


Most animals experience variation in factors such as temperature, pH, oxygen availability, food and water. The physiological systems of animals have therefore evolved to optimise function in the face of this variation, which can either limit or enable animal performance. Adaptations can include “capacity” adaptations for gas transport, neuromuscular function, digestion, immune function that support locomotion, growth and reproduction when conditions are benign. Conversely, physiological systems must support survival when conditions are not permissible for growth and reproduction. These “tolerance” adaptations can, for example, allow some animals to endure temperature extremes, anoxia, drought, starvation etc. The physiological traits important for high physiological capacity can be quite different from those supporting physiological resilience at environmental extremes with many animals switching among physiological demands and selective pressures over various timescales. We call for sessions that review factors affecting physiological capacity, and physiological tolerance relevant to the environmental fluctuating conditions that animals experience over daily, seasonal and historical timescales.


Osmoregulatory, metabolic and respiratory adaptations to extreme and changing environments
The impact of climate change is profoundly altering the environmental landscape with further influence from anthropogenic derived disturbance. Animals are facing accumulating challenges which they must overcome if they are to survive these fluctuations as well as dealing with human induced environmental change (HIREC). This theme will address how animals cope with altered environmental conditions with an emphasis on osmoregulatory, metabolic and respiratory mechanisms. Experimental biology can provide the answers to key questions such as which animals will persist or perish in the face of enhanced temperatures, extreme weather events and ocean acidification. It is crucial to take an integrative approach and understand how organisms handle environmental change from the cellular level through to the whole animal. The implications of these important studies can assist policy makers in the management of wild animals, and provide an understanding of how to sustain ecosystems, manage biodiversity and maintain populations.

The sensing and communication of environmental change in animals
Understanding and predicting how animals cope with the ongoing environmental changes of the Anthropocene, including global warming, pollution, ocean acidification, hypoxia and more, is one of the major research efforts of our time. While general species-specific physiological responses to environmental change have gained most focus, less attention has been given to how animals detect, sense and evaluate change, and how cells and tissues communicate disruptions of homeostasis to elucidate the appropriate compensatory response. The proposed theme hence aims to inspire multidisciplinary and integrative sessions on organismal coping mechanisms, and more specifically on routes of communication including endocrinology, signalling cascades, and stress compensatory responses and pathways.

Bioinspiration and biomimetics from performance pinnacles in animal evolution
Hearing the words bioinspiration and biomimetics may draw your thoughts to robotics and development of assistive devices. However, bioinspiration and biomimetics are contemporary, diverse fields that may draw not only from the impressive structure-function-mechanics relationships perfected in the animal kingdom by millions of years of evolution, but also from many other disciplines covered by SEB’s animal section. Understanding human ailments in the modern world, from dysfunctional society building to disorders of the nervous, immune, and circulatory systems, may also be enhanced by considering both behaviour and physiological systems functionally as adaptations developed over evolutionary time. 
For this theme, we invited you to present your work that showcases how pinnacles of performance seen across the animal kingdom can be leveraged to overcome societal challenges and aid technology development towards desirable functions. This topic will be a celebration of marvellous principles seen in nature, as well as an exciting foreshadowing of biotechnological innovations in development, or perhaps on the horizon. This theme also pays tribute to the considerable strengths in associated areas across the greater Antwerp area.


Our scientific events   

SEB 2020 Annual Meeting: Animal Biology Sessions
2020 Animal Biology Symposium: Aquatic Chemical Communication in the Anthropocene
Animal Biology Satellite Meeting: The Science of Animal Sentience: Refining Experimental Biology2020 Animal Biology Symposium: Aquatic Chemical Communication in the AnthropoceneSEB 2019 Annual Meeting: Animal Biology SessionsAnimal Biology Satellite Meeting: Is global warming causing animals to shrink? Evidence, mechanisms and model
SEB 2018 Annual Meeting: Animal Biology Sessions
2018 Animal Biology Symposium: Lessons from two high CO2 worlds - future oceans and intensive aquaculture
2018 Animal Biology Satellite Meeting: The height, breadth and depth of physiological diversity: variation across latitudinal, altitudinal and depth gradients
2017 Animal Biology Symposium: HumaNature

Each year the Animal Biology Section organise a series of scientific sessions as part of the SEB's Annual Conference.
We also organise satellite meetings each year which are  attached to the SEB Annual Conference as well as a symposium every two years.

Members are welcome to submit proposals for sessions at the SEB Annual Conference and for symposa and satellite meetings.

Find out more about how you can submit proposals here.