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Recently thinking about balance caused me to wander toward a related word that is a very important biological concept.
A word that biology textbooks mentioned and defined Chapter 1 or 2 as an important term – then seldom resurfaces. Teachers knowing its importance will regularly reinforce the concept throughout the course. Textbooks stressing this important concept are rare, therefore outside the mainstream – so less used by teachers and students.
The word – homeostasis – does not pop into everyday conversation. We don’t hear it on the news broadcasts or read it in news articles. Homeostasis may appear as a Jeopardy answer in the form of a question, but not as a category.
Homeostasis is a word that many do not know, but a word people know examples of while not associating the examples to the word. Homeostasis has to do with balance, but not in the same sense as the actions when trying to walk a railroad track or balance beam. Not in the same sense as balancing daily life activities – but homeostasis is very much about life.
Although our body is constantly producing heat, homeostasis is the mechanism that keeps our body temperature relatively the same by releasing heat. If the body temperature lowers, a homeostasis mechanism adjusts to keep heat in and produce more heat. After all, have you ever shivered?
Because reptiles don’t have an automatic mechanism to regulate body temperature, they adjust by responding with behaviors – sunning on a rock to increase their body temperature, or seeking cool shade or a hole in the ground to keep their body from overheating.
To maintain a relatively constant body temperature, the organism must have senses to detect external and internal temperature, plus ways to transmit those information/signals to bring about a response to maintain the balance – that’s homeostasis.
We take in water – most commonly through food and beverages. Our cells also constantly produce water. Our blood is over 50% water and continuously passes through our kidneys. Kidneys remove excess water from the blood so, we release water from the body as the main ingredient in urine. That’s homeostasis.
Water moves in and out of our body – yet, a mechanism is in place to keep the water level within us relatively constant. We get thirsty and retain water when we need water. We eliminate excess water when necessary. That’s homeostasis.
Many cells have water continuously entering. So they don’t explode from over-swelling, a mechanism for removing water is in place. That’s homeostasis.
Plants take in water through their roots and release water through their leaves – so plants must have a mechanism for regulating the two. Did you imagine a similarity our kidneys have with plants? Yes, homeostasis links those ideas.
All living things require constant energy to survive. No matter if the food is caught, prepared, or made by the organism, food is the energy source. That’s homeostasis.
Our cells constantly use food from the blood to make the energy required to sustain life. After we eat, our digestive system prepares the food so cells can use it. The final products of digestion move into the blood for transport to the cells for their use or to storage for later use. Insulin plays an important role in maintaining the sugar level in the blood. That’s homeostasis.
Living things have many examples of homeostasis – and maintaining body temperature, water, and food levels are a few examples – but there are many others.
Homeostasis very much relates to our health. If homeostasis is interrupted or disrupted, something is wrong – disease, illness, conditions. Some illnesses involve a disruption in homeostasis and in the mechanism for restoring the normal state. Then again, sometimes correcting one problem amplifies another.
Yes – homeostasis is a concept in biology and life because it is important to all living things. Important to birds, fish, reptiles, amphibians, mammals, single cells, insects, worms, sponges, jellyfish, clams, crabs, plants, and more. Yes – homeostasis is important to all living things.
The teacher in me came out for this walk – but maybe my thoughts have given you something to ponder. For me, that is a good thing. After all, I like walking on the beach because it is good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.
See what other bloggers have posted about Homeostasis
- Self-healing (an essay)
- Steady practice (an essay)
- Homeostasis: the essence of life (an essay)
- Finding homeostasis in the chaos (an essay)
- Steady practice (an essay)
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