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Integrative Biology 427

Insect Physiology

Spring 2010


Instructor: Marianne Alleyne

317 Morrill Hall

217-377-0091 (cell)

TAs: Becca Striman

420A Morrill Hall

217-419-6939 (cell)


Lecture (IB 427 AL1)
MWF noon-1 PM
Lecture Classroom: 140 Burrill Hall


Lab (IB 427 AB1)
Th 1PM-4PM (or by appointment) Laboratory Classroom: 326 NHB or 317 MH


The topic of this course is "how insects work." The great insect physiologist Sir Vincent B. Wigglesworth opened his 1934 monograph on insect physiology by stating that his goal was to describe the "fundamental processes of vital activity," but then went on to make it clear that he would begin by dealing with "physiology on the humbler plane: with the grosser functions of the organs and tissues, and with the mechanisms by which these functions are coordinated to serve the purpose of the insect as a whole." And so will it be with IB 427.


This course consists of lectures, required readings, student selected writings on "famous" insect physiologists and their work, laboratory exercises, and laboratory reports. Three themes will permeate all topics. The first is what one normally thinks of as course content - the answers to the question of how insects work. The second is a historical context of the content (How did we get to this point?). The third is the development of all members of the class as researchers and scientific writers.


Content is provided by the lectures, by the textbook, and by assigned articles that have just recently been published. Historical context is provided by lectures, by the textbook, and by biographies and classic articles of insect physiologists (formerly "physiologist of the week"). The laboratory exercises will be developed and performed by the students themselves working in groups (with support of the TA and the professor). Practice in writing is provided by the biography exercises as well as the laboratory write-up, and by the exams.


It is assumed that the students know the basics of vertebrate physiology, so review will be limited. The following biases of the instructor will be evident. First, the emphasis will be on general solutions to physiological problems rather than on specialists (however, I will try to cover interesting observations on insects that the students are working on for their research). Second, even though the solutions reflect phylogeny, this aspect of the subject will not be emphasized. Third, physiological adaptations also reflect ecology, but this will not be emphasized. Fourth, understanding of the basics of molecular biology is required, but is not the whole story (the same goes for biochemistry). Fifth, the emphasis will be on a fairly narrow range of "model" insects useful for physiological studies rather than on diversity or on specific beneficials and pests (but again, I will try to also mention some of the insects studied by the student, and welcome any input).


Required Materials

  • Klowden, M.J. (2007 or 2002) Physiological systems in insects. Academic Press, San Diego
  • Access to e-mail
  • Access to the internet (
  • Keys to 323 NHB and outside doors of NHB (obtain as needed from Entomology Office - 320 Morrill Hall), Keys to 317 MH.