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Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience

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Course organiser: David Bainbridge ()


Reproduction is, in my opinion, where animals start to get interesting.

Most of the rest of anatomy and physiology is about allowing animals to 'keep going' - moving around the place, breathing, eating, urinating and so on. Even the nervous system, no matter how complex, is simply there to allow animals to generate responses to the environment.

Yet reproduction is fundamentally different - it is when animals start to do something altogether miraculous. They step forward from the need just to survive, and direct their attentions to making little copies of themselves. No animal is immortal and the way animals can cheat death is by making babies. In this way their genes can outlive the temporary vessel of their body and effectively survive forever.

Everything has its price, of course, and the price of reproduction is high. I think it is fair to say that breeding is just about the most energetically demanding thing that animals ever do. Many individuals fail to breed and many die in the attempt. Reproduction is stressful, whether an animal is scraping a living in the wild, or is being forced to be productive in the service of man. Coping with this stress requires the coordination of almost every system in the body.

This course is the story of that coping. The first two thirds of it concern the basic physiology of the process and is co-taught with the natural scientists. The other third is for vets only - it allows us to apply our knowledge to the variety of domestic animals, and the situations into which we have forced them.