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Concepts of Biology

Chapter Summary

Concepts of BiologyChapter Summary

16.1 Homeostasis and Osmoregulation

Homeostasis is a dynamic equilibrium that is maintained in body tissues and organs. It is dynamic because it is constantly adjusting to the changes that the systems encounter. It is an equilibrium because body functions are kept within a normal range, with some fluctuations around a set point. The kidneys are the main osmoregulatory organs in mammalian systems; they function to filter blood and maintain the dissolved ion concentrations of body fluids. They are made up internally of three distinct regions—the cortex, medulla, and pelvis. The blood vessels that transport blood into and out of the kidneys arise from and merge with the aorta and inferior vena cava, respectively. The nephron is the functional unit of the kidney, which actively filters blood and generates urine. The urine leaves the kidney through the ureter and is stored in the urinary bladder. Urine is voided from the body through the urethra.

16.2 Digestive System

There are many organs that work together to digest food and absorb nutrients. The mouth is the point of ingestion and the location where both mechanical and chemical breakdown of food begins. Saliva contains an enzyme called amylase that breaks down carbohydrates. The food bolus travels through the esophagus by peristaltic movements to the stomach. The stomach has an extremely acidic environment. The enzyme pepsin digests protein in the stomach. Further digestion and absorption take place in the small intestine. The large intestine reabsorbs water from the undigested food and stores waste until elimination.

Carbohydrates, proteins, and fats are the primary components of food. Some essential nutrients are required for cellular function but cannot be produced by the animal body. These include vitamins, minerals, some fatty acids, and some amino acids. Food intake in more than necessary amounts is stored as glycogen in the liver and muscle cells, and in adipose tissue. Excess adipose storage can lead to obesity and serious health problems.

16.3 Circulatory and Respiratory Systems

Animal respiratory systems are designed to facilitate gas exchange. In mammals, air is warmed and humidified in the nasal cavity. Air then travels down the pharynx and larynx, through the trachea, and into the lungs. In the lungs, air passes through the branching bronchi, reaching the respiratory bronchioles. The respiratory bronchioles open up into the alveolar ducts, alveolar sacs, and alveoli. Because there are so many alveoli and alveolar sacs in the lung, the surface area for gas exchange is very large.

The mammalian circulatory system is a closed system with double circulation passing through the lungs and the body. It consists of a network of vessels containing blood that circulates because of pressure differences generated by the heart.

The heart contains two pumps that move blood through the pulmonary and systemic circulations. There is one atrium and one ventricle on the right side and one atrium and one ventricle on the left side. The pumping of the heart is a function of cardiomyocytes, distinctive muscle cells that are striated like skeletal muscle but pump rhythmically and involuntarily like smooth muscle. The signal for contraction begins in the wall of the right atrium. The electrochemical signal causes the two atria to contract in unison; then the signal causes the ventricles to contract. The blood from the heart is carried through the body by a complex network of blood vessels; arteries take blood away from the heart, and veins bring blood back to the heart.

16.4 Endocrine System

Hormones cause cellular changes by binding to receptors on or in target cells. The number of receptors on a target cell can increase or decrease in response to hormone activity.

Hormone levels are primarily controlled through negative feedback, in which rising levels of a hormone inhibit its further release.

The pituitary gland is located at the base of the brain. The anterior pituitary receives signals from the hypothalamus and produces six hormones. The posterior pituitary is an extension of the brain and releases hormones (antidiuretic hormone and oxytocin) produced by the hypothalamus. The thyroid gland is located in the neck and is composed of two lobes. The thyroid produces the hormones thyroxine and triiodothyronine. The thyroid also produces calcitonin. The parathyroid glands lie on the posterior surface of the thyroid gland and produce parathyroid hormone.

The adrenal glands are located on top of the kidneys and consist of the adrenal cortex and adrenal medulla. The adrenal cortex produces the corticosteroids, glucocorticoids and mineralocorticoids. The adrenal medulla is the inner part of the adrenal gland and produces epinephrine and norepinephrine.

The pancreas lies in the abdomen between the stomach and the small intestine. Clusters of endocrine cells in the pancreas form the islets of Langerhans, which contain alpha cells that release glucagon and beta cells that release insulin. Some organs possess endocrine activity as a secondary function but have another primary function. The heart produces the hormone atrial natriuretic peptide, which functions to reduce blood volume, pressure, and Na+ concentration. The gastrointestinal tract produces various hormones that aid in digestion. The kidneys produce erythropoietin. The thymus produces hormones that aid in the development of the immune system. The gonads produce large amounts of steroid hormones, including testosterone in testes and estrogen and progesterone in ovaries. Adipose tissue produces leptin, which promotes satiety signals in the brain.

16.5 Musculoskeletal System

The human skeleton is an endoskeleton that is composed of the axial and appendicular skeleton. The axial skeleton is composed of the bones of the skull, ossicles of the ear, hyoid bone, vertebral column, and ribcage. The skull consists of eight cranial bones and 14 facial bones. Six bones make up the ossicles of the middle ear, while the hyoid bone is located in the neck under the mandible. The vertebral column contains 26 bones and surrounds and protects the spinal cord. The thoracic cage consists of the sternum, ribs, thoracic vertebrae, and costal cartilages. The appendicular skeleton is made up of the upper and lower limbs. The pectoral girdle is composed of the clavicles and the scapulae. The upper limb contains 30 bones in the arm, the forearm, and the hand. The pelvic girdle attaches the lower limbs to the axial skeleton. The lower limb includes the bones of the thigh, the leg, and the foot.

The structural classification of joints divides them into fibrous, cartilaginous, and synovial joints. The bones of fibrous joints are held together by fibrous connective tissue. Cartilaginous joints are joints in which the bones are connected by cartilage. Synovial joints are joints that have a space between the adjoining bones. The movement of synovial joints includes angular and rotational. Angular movements are produced when the angle between the bones of a joint changes. Rotational movement is the movement of a bone as it rotates around its own longitudinal axis.

The body contains three types of muscle tissue: skeletal muscle, cardiac muscle, and smooth muscle. Muscles are composed of individual cells called muscle fibers. Muscle fibers consist of myofilaments composed of the proteins actin and myosin arranged in units called sarcomeres. Contraction of the muscle occurs by the combined action of myosin and actin fibers sliding past each other when the myosin heads bind to the actin fiber, bend, disengage, and then repeat the process.

16.6 Nervous System

The nervous system is made up of neurons and glia. Neurons are specialized cells that are capable of sending electrical as well as chemical signals. Most neurons contain dendrites, which receive these signals, and axons that send signals to other neurons or tissues. Glia are non-neuronal cells in the nervous system that support neuronal development and signaling. There are several types of glia that serve different functions.

Neurons have a resting potential across their membranes and when they are stimulated by a strong enough signal from another neuron an action potential may carry an electrochemical signal along the neuron to a synapse with another neuron. Neurotransmitters carry signals across synapses to initiate a response in another neuron.

The vertebrate central nervous system contains the brain and the spinal cord, which are covered and protected by three meninges. The brain contains structurally and functionally defined regions. In mammals, these include the cortex (which can be broken down into four primary functional lobes: frontal, temporal, occipital, and parietal), basal ganglia, thalamus, hypothalamus, limbic system, cerebellum, and brainstem—although structures in some of these designations overlap. While functions may be primarily localized to one structure in the brain, most complex functions, like language and sleep, involve neurons in multiple brain regions. The spinal cord is the information superhighway that connects the brain with the rest of the body through its connections with peripheral nerves. It transmits sensory and motor input and also controls motor reflexes.

The peripheral nervous system contains both the autonomic and sensory-somatic nervous systems. The autonomic nervous system provides unconscious control over visceral functions and has two divisions: the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. The sympathetic nervous system is activated in stressful situations to prepare the animal for a “fight-or-flight” response. The parasympathetic nervous system is active during restful periods. The sensory-somatic nervous system is made of cranial and spinal nerves that transmit sensory information from skin and muscle to the CNS and motor commands from the CNS to the muscles.

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