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Respiration in organism

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  • 1. Respiration in Organism
  • 2. RESPIRATION CONCEPT Respiration is much more than just breathing; in fact, the term refers to two separate processes, only one of which is the intake and outflow of breath. At least cellular respiration, the process by which organisms convert food into chemical energy, requires oxygen; on the other hand, some forms of respiration are anaerobic, meaning that they require no oxygen. Such is the case, for instance, with some bacteria, such as those that convert ethyl alcohol to vinegar. Likewise, an anaerobic process can take place in human muscle tissue, producing lactic acid—something so painful that it feels as though vinegar itself were being poured on an open sore.
  • 3. HOW IT WORKS Forms of Respiration Respiration can be defined as the process by which an organism takes in oxygen and releases carbon dioxide, one in which the circulating medium of the organism (e.g., the blood) comes into contact with air or dissolved gases. Either way, this means more or less the same thing as breathing. In some cases, this meaning of the term is extended to the transfer of oxygen from the lungs to the bloodstream and, eventually, into cells or the release of carbon dioxide from cells into the bloodstream and thence to the lungs, from whence it is expelled to the environment. Sometimes a distinction is made between external respiration, or an exchange of gases with the external environment, and internal respiration, an exchange of gases between the body's cells and the blood, in which the blood itself "bathes" the cells with oxygen and receives carbon dioxide to transfer
  • 4. This is just one meaning—albeit a more familiar one—of the word respiration. Respiration also can mean cellular respiration, a series of chemical reactions within cells whereby food is "burned" in the presence of oxygen and converted into carbon dioxide and water. This type of respiration is the reverse of photosynthesis, the process by which plants convert dioxide and water, with the aid of solar energy, into complex organic compounds known as carbohydrates. (For more about carbohydrates and photosynthesis, see Carbohydrates.)
  • 5. How Gases Move Through the Body Later in this essay, we discuss some of the ways in which various life-forms breathe, but suffice it to say for the moment—hardly a surprising revelation!—that the human lungs and respiratory system are among the more complex mechanisms for breathing in the animal world. In humans and other animals with relatively complex breathing mechanisms (i.e., lungs or gills), oxygen passes through the breathing apparatus, is absorbed by the bloodstream, and then is converted into an unstable chemical compound (i.e., one that is broken down easily) and carried to cells. When the compound reaches a cell, it is broken down and releases its oxygen, which passes into the cell.
  • 6. On the "return trip"—that is, the reverse process, which we experience as exhalation—cells release carbon dioxide into the bloodstream, where it is used to form another unstable chemical compound. This compound is carried by the bloodstream back to the gills or lungs, and, at the end of the journey, it breaks down and releases the carbon dioxide to the surrounding environment. Clearly, the one process is a mirror image of the other, with the principal difference being the fact that oxygen is the key chemical component in the intake process, while carbon dioxide plays the same role in the process of outflow.
  • 7. HEMOGLOBIN AND OTHER COMPOUNDS. In humans the compound used to transport oxygen is known by the name hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is an ironcontaining protein in red blood cells that is responsible for transporting oxygen to the tissues and removing carbon dioxide from them. In the lungs, hemoglobin, known for its deep red color, reacts with oxygen to form oxyhemoglobin. Oxyhemoglobin travels through the bloodstream to cells, where it breaks down to form hemoglobin and oxygen, and the oxygen then passes into cells. On the return trip, hemoglobin combines with carbon dioxide to form carbaminohemoglobin, an unstable compound that, once again, breaks down—only this time it is carbon dioxide that it releases, in this case to the surrounding environment rather than to the cells.
  • 8. In other species, compounds other than hemoglobin perform a similar function. For example, some types of annelids, or segmented worms, carry a green blood protein called chlorocruorin that functions in the same way as hemoglobin does in humans. And whereas hemoglobin is a molecule with an iron atom at the center, the blood of lobsters and other large crustaceans contains hemocyanin, in which copper occupies the central position. Whatever the substance, the compound it forms with oxygen and carbon dioxide must be unstable, so that it can break down easily to release oxygen to the cells or carbon dioxide to the environment.
  • 9. Cellular Respiration Both forms of respiration involve oxygen, but cellular respiration also involves a type of nutrient—materials that supply energy, or the materials for forming new tissue. Among the key nutrients are carbohydrates, naturally occurring compounds that consist of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. Included in the carbohydrate group are sugars, starches, cellulose, and various other substances. Glucose is a simple sugar produced in cells by the breakdown of more complex carbohydrates, including starch, cellulose, and such complex sugars as sucrose (cane or beet sugar) and fructose (fruit sugar). In cellular respiration, an organism oxidizes glucose (i.e., combines it with oxygen) so as to form the energy-rich compound known as adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP, critical to metabolism (the breakdown of nutrients to provide energy or form new material), is the compound used by cells to carry out most of their ordinary functions. Among those functions are the production of new cell parts and chemicals, the movement of compounds through cells and the body as a whole, and growth.
  • 10. In cellular respiration, six molecules of glucose (C6H12O6) react with six molecules of oxygen (O2) to form six molecules of carbon dioxide (CO2), six molecules of water (H2O), and 36 molecules of ATP. This can be represented by the following chemical equation: 6C6H12O6 + 6 O2 → 6 CO2 + 6 H2O + 36 ATP The process is much more complicated than this equation makes it appear: some two dozen separate chemical reactions are involved in the overall conversion of glucose to carbon dioxide, water, and ATP.
  • 11. The Mechanics of Breathing All animals have some mechanism for removing oxygen from the air and transmitting it into the bloodstream, and this same mechanism typically is used to expel carbon dioxide from the bloodstream into the surrounding environment. Types of animal respiration, in order of complexity, include direct diffusion, diffusion into blood, tracheal respiration, respiration with gills, and finally, respiration through lungs. Microbes, fungi, and plants all obtain the oxygen they use for cellular respiration directly from the environment, meaning that there are no intermediate organs or bodily chemicals, such as lungs or blood. More complex organisms, such as sponges, jellyfish, and terrestrial (land) flatworms, all of which have blood, also breathe through direct diffusion. The latter term describes an exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide directly between an organism, or its bloodstream, and the surrounding environment.
  • 12. More complex is the method of diffusion into blood whereby oxygen passes through a moist layer of cells on the body surface and then through capillary walls (capillaries are small blood vessels that form a network throughout the body) and into the bloodstream. Once oxygen is in the blood, it moves throughout the body to different tissues and cells. Among the organisms that rely on diffusion into blood are annelids, a group that includes earthworms, various marine worms, and leeches. In tracheal respiration air moves through openings in the body surface called spiracles. It then passes into special breathing tubes called tracheae that extend into the body. The tracheae divide into many small branches that are in contact with muscles and organs. In small insects, air simply moves into the tracheae, while in large insects, body movements assist tracheal air movement. Insects and terrestrial arthropods (land-based organisms with external skeletons) use this method of respiration.
  • 13. Much more complicated than tracheae, gills are specialized tissues with many infoldings. Each gill is covered by a thin layer of cells and filled with blood capillaries. These capillaries take up oxygen dissolved in water and expel carbon dioxide dissolved in blood. Fish and other aquatic animals use gills, as did the early ancestors of humans and other higher animals. A remnant of this chapter from humans' evolutionary history can be seen in the way that an embryo breathes in its mother's womb, not by drawing in oxygen through its lungs but through gill-like mechanisms that disappear as the embryo develops.
  • 14. LUNGS. Lungs are composed of many small chambers or air sacs surrounded by blood capillaries. Thus, they work with the circulatory system, which transports oxygen from inhaled air to all tissues of the body and also transports carbon dioxide from body cells to the lungs to be exhaled. After air enters the lungs, oxygen moves into the bloodstream through the walls of these capillaries. It then passes from the lung capillaries to the different muscles and organs of the body. Although they are common to amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals, lungs differ enormously throughout the animal kingdom. Frogs, for instance, have balloon-like lungs that do not have a very large surface area. By contrast, if the entire surface of an adult male human's lungs were spread flat, it would cover about 750 sq. ft. (70 m2), approximately the size of a handball court. The reason is that humans have about 300 million gasfilled alveoli, tiny protrusions inside the lungs that greatly expand the surface area for gas exchange.
  • 15. Birds have specialized lungs that use a mechanism called crosscurrent exchange, which allows air to flow in one direction only, making for more efficient oxygen exchange. They have some eight thin-walled air sacs attached to their lungs, and when they inhale, air passes through a tube called the bronchus and enters posterior air sacs—that is, sacs located toward the rear. At the same time, air in the lungs moves forward to anterior air sacs, or ones located near the bird's front. When the bird exhales, air from the rear air sacs moves to the outside environment, while air from the front moves into the lungs. This efficient system moves air forward through the lungs when the bird inhales and exhales and makes it possible for birds to fly at high altitudes, where the air has a low oxygen content. Humans and other mammals have lungs in which air moves in and out through the same pathway. This is true even of dolphins and whales, though they differ from humans in that they do not take in nutrition through the same opening. In fact, terrestrial mammals, such as the human, horse, or dog, are some of the only creatures that possess two large respiratory openings: one purely for breathing and smelling and the other for the intake of nutrients as well as air (i.e., oxygen in and carbon dioxide out).
  • 16. REAL-LIFE APPLICATIONS Anaerobic Respiration Activity that involves oxygen is called aerobic; hence the term aerobic exercise, which refers to running, calisthenics, biking, or any other form of activity that increases the heart rate and breathing. Activity that does not involve oxygen intake is called anaerobic. Weightlifting, for instance, will increase the heart rate and rate of breathing if it is done intensely, but that is not its purpose and it does not depend on the intake and outflow of breath. For that reason, it is called an anaerobic exercise—though, obviously, a person has to keep breathing while doing it. In fact, a person cannot consciously stop breathing for a prolonged period, and for this reason, people cannot kill themselves simply by holding their breath. A buildup of carbon dioxide and hydrogen ions (electrically charged atoms) in the bloodstream stimulates the breathing centers to become active, no matter what we try to do. On the other hand, if a person were underwater, the lungs would draw in water instead of air, and though water contains air, the drowning person would suffocate.
  • 17. ANAEROBIC BACTERIA. Some creatures, however, do not need to breathe air but instead survive by anaerobic respiration. This is true primarily of some forms of bacteria, and indeed scientists believe that the first organisms to appear on Earth's surface were anaerobic. Those organisms arose when Earth's atmosphere contained very little oxygen, and as the composition of the atmosphere began to incorporate more oxygen over the course of many millions of years, new organisms evolved that were adapted to that condition. The essay on paleontology discusses Earth's early history, including the existence of anaerobic life before the formation of oxygen in the atmosphere. The appearance of oxygen is a result of plant life, which produces it as a byproduct of the conversion of carbon dioxide that takes place in photosynthesis. Plants, therefore, are technically anaerobic lifeforms, though that term usually refers to types of bacteria that neither inhale nor exhale oxygen. Anaerobic bacteria still exist on Earth and serve humans in many ways. Some play a part in the production of foods, as in the process of fermentation. Other anaerobic bacteria have a role in the treatment of sewage. Living in an environment that would kill most creatures—and not just because of the lack of oxygen—they consume waste materials, breaking them down chemically into simpler compounds.
  • 18. HUMANS AND ANAEROBIC RESPIRATION. Even in creatures, such as humans, that depend on aerobic respiration, anaerobic respiration can take place. Most cells are able to switch from aerobic to anaerobic respiration when necessary, but they generally are not able to continue producing energy by this process for very long. For example, a person who exercises vigorously may be burning up glucose faster than oxygen is being pumped to the cells, meaning that cellular respiration cannot take place quickly enough to supply all the energy the body needs. In that case, cells switch over to anaerobic respiration, which results in the production of lactic acid, or C3H6O3. One advantage of anaerobic respiration is that it can take place very quickly and in short bursts, as opposed to aerobic respiration, which is designed for slower and steadier use of muscles. The disadvantage is that anaerobic respiration produces lactic acid, which, when it builds up in muscles that are overworked, causes soreness and may even lead to cramps.
  • 19. RESPIRATION: A term that can refer either to cellular respiration (see definition) or, more commonly, to the process by which an organism takes in oxygen and releases carbon dioxide. Sometimes a distinction is made between external respiration, or an exchange of gases with the external environment, and internal respiration, an exchange of gases between the body's cells and the blood.