Life Process

 

Various functions carried out by living beings; which are necessary to maintain and continue life is called life process. Following are the life processes of living beings:

Nutrition

The process by which an organism takes food and utilizes it is called nutrition.

Need of nutrition: Organisms need energy to perform various activities. The energy is supplied by the nutrients. Organisms need various raw materials for growth and repair. These raw materials are provided by nutrients.

Nutrients: Materials which provide nutrition to organisms are called nutrients. Carbohydrates, proteins and fats are the main nutrients and are called macronutrients. Minerals and vitamins are required in small amounts and hence are called micronutrients.

Types of Nutrition:

  1. Autotrophic Nutrition: The mode of nutrition in which an organism prepares its own food is called autotrophic nutrition. Green plants and blue-green algae follow the autotrophic mode of nutrition.
  2. Heterotrophic Nutrition: The mode of nutrition in which an organism takes food from another organism is called heterotrophic nutrition. Organisms; other than green plants and blue-green algae follow the heterotrophic mode of nutrition. Heterotrophic nutrition can be further divided into two types, viz. saprophytic nutrition and holozoic nutrition.
  3. Saprophytic Nutrition: In saprophytic nutrition; the organism secretes the digestive juices on the food. The food is digested while it is still to be ingested. The digested food is then ingested by the organism. All the decomposers follow saprophytic nutrition.
  4. Holozoic Nutrition: In holozoic nutrition; the digestion happens inside the body of the organism, i.e. after the food is ingested. Most of the animals follow this mode of nutrition.

Plant Nutrition

Green plants prepare their own food. They make food in the presence of sunlight. Sunlight provides energy. carbon dioxide and water are the raw materials. Chloroplast is the site where food is made.

Photosynthesis: The process by which green plants prepare food is called photosynthesis. During this process; the solar energy is converted into chemical energy and carbohydrates are formed. Green leaves are the main sites of photosynthesis. The green portion of the plant contains a pigment chloroplast; which contains chlorophyll. The whole process of photosynthesis can be shown by the following equation:

6CO2 + 6H2O ⇨ C6H12O6 + 6O2

 

Steps of Photosynthesis:

  • Sunlight activates chlorophyll; which leads to splitting of water molecule.
  • The hydrogen; released by splitting of water molecule is utilized for reduction of carbon dioxide to produce carbohydrates.
  • Oxygen is the byproduct of photosynthesis.
  • Carbohydrate is subsequently converted into starch and is stored in leaves and other storage parts.
  • The splitting of water molecules is part of the light reaction.
  • Other steps are part of the dark reaction during photosynthesis.

How do raw materials for photosynthesis become available to the plant?

  • Water comes from soil; through the xylem tissue in roots and stems.
  • Carbon dioxide comes in the leaves through stomata.

Transportation in Plants

Plants have specialized vascular tissues for transportation of substances. There are two types of vascular tissues in plants, viz. xylem and phloem.

Xylem: Xylem is responsible for transportation of water and minerals. It is composed of tracheids, xylem vessels, xylem parenchyma and xylem fibre. Tracheids and xylem vessels are the conducting elements. The xylem makes a continuous tube in plants which runs from roots to stem and right up to the veins of leaves.

Phloem: Phloem is responsible for transportation of food. Phloem is composed of sieve tubes, companion cells, phloem parenchyma and bast fibres. Sieve tubes are the conducting elements in phloem.

Ascent of Sap

The upward movement of water and minerals from roots to different plant parts is called ascent of sap. Many factors are at play in ascent of sap and it takes place in many steps. They are explained as follows:

Root Pressure: The walls of cells of root hairs are very thin. Water; from soil; enters the root hairs because of osmosis. Root pressure is responsible for movement of water up to the base of the stem.

Capillary Action: A very fine tube is called capillary. Water; or any liquid; rises in the capillary because of physical forces and this phenomenon is called capillary action. Water; in stem; rises up to some height because of capillary action.

Transport of Food: 

Transport of food in plants happens because of utilization of energy. Thus, unlike the transport through xylem; it is a form of active transport. Moreover, the flow of substances through phloem takes place in both directions, i.e. it is a two-way traffic in phloem.

Animal Nutrition

Heterotrophic Nutrition: When an organism takes food from another organism, it is called heterotrophic nutrition. Different heterotrophic organisms follow different methods to take and utilize food. Based on this, heterotrophic nutrition can be divided into two types:

  1. Saprophytic Nutrition: In saprophytic nutrition, the digestion of food takes place before ingestion of food. This type of nutrition is usually seen in fungi and some other microorganisms. The organism secretes digestive enzymes on the food and then ingests the simple substances. Saprophytes feed on dead materials and thus help in decomposition dead remains of plants and animals.
  2. Holozoic Nutrition: In holozoic nutrition, the digestion of food follows after the ingestion of food. Thus, digestion takes place inside the body of the organism. Holozoic nutrition happens in five steps, viz. ingestion, digestion, absorption, assimilation and egestion.

Steps of Holozoic Nutrition

  1. Ingestion: The process of taking in the food is called ingestion.
  2. Digestion: The process of breaking complex food substances into simple molecules is called digestion. Simple molecules; thus obtained; can be absorbed by the body.
  3. Absorption: The process of absorption of digested food is called absorption.
  4. Assimilation: The process of utilization of digested food; for energy and for growth and repair is called assimilation.
  5. Egestion: The process of removing undigested food from the body is called egestion.

Nutrition in Amoeba:

Amoeba is a unicellular animal which follows the holozoic mode of nutrition. The cell membrane of amoeba keeps on protruding into pseudopodia. Amoeba surrounds a food particle with pseudopodia and makes a food vacuole. The food vacuole contains the food particle and water. Digestive enzymes are secreted in the food vacuole and digestion takes place. After that, digested food is absorbed from the food vacuole. Finally, the food vacuole moves near the cell membrane and undigested food is expelled out.

Nutrition in Humans

Human beings are complex animals; which have a complex digestive system. The human digestive system is composed of an alimentary canal and some accessory glands. The alimentary canal is divided into several parts, viz. oesophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, rectum and anus. Salivary gland, liver and pancreas are the accessory glands which lie outside the alimentary canal.

Structure of the Human Digestive System:

Mouth or Buccal Cavity: The mouth has teeth and tongue. Salivary glands are also present in the mouth. The tongue has gustatory receptors which perceive the sense of taste. Tongue helps in turning over the food so that saliva can be properly mixed in it.

Teeth help in breaking down the food into smaller particles so that swallowing of food becomes easier. There are four types of teeth in human beings. The incisor teeth are used for cutting the food. The canine teeth are used for tearing the food and for cracking hard substances. The premolars are used for coarse grinding of food. The molars are used for fine grinding of food.

Salivary glands secrete saliva. Saliva makes the food slippery which makes it easy to swallow the food. Saliva also contains the enzyme salivary amylase or ptyalin. Salivary amylase digests starch and converts it into sucrose.

Respiration

The process by which a living being utilizes the food to get energy is called respiration. Respiration is an oxidation reaction in which carbohydrate is oxidized to produce energy. The mitochondrion is the site of respiration and the energy released is stored in the form of ATP (Adenosine triphosphate). ATP is stored in mitochondria and is released as per need.

Steps of Respiration:

  1. Breaking down glucose into pyruvate: This step happens in the cytoplasm. Glucose molecule is broken down into pyruvic acid. Glucose molecule is composed of 6 carbon atoms, while pyruvic acid is composed of 3 carbon atoms.
  2. Fate of Pyruvic Acid: Further breaking down of pyruvic acid takes place in mitochondria and the molecules formed depend on the type of respiration in a particular organism. Respiration is of two types, viz. aerobic respiration and anaerobic respiration.

Types of Respiration:

  1. Aerobic Respiration: This type of respiration happens in the presence of oxygen. Pyruvic acid is converted into carbon dioxide. Energy is released and water molecule is also formed at the end of this process.
  2. Anaerobic Respiration: This type of respiration happens in the absence of oxygen. Pyruvic acid is either converted into ethyl alcohol or lactic acid. Ethyl alcohol is usually formed in case of anaerobic respiration in microbes; like yeast or bacteria. Lactic acid is formed in some microbes as well as in the muscle cells.

Transportation in Animals

Circulatory System: The circulatory system is responsible for transport of various substances in human beings. It is composed of the heart, arteries, veins and blood capillaries. Blood plays the role of the carrier of substances.

Heart: Heart is a muscular organ; which is composed of cardiac muscles. It is so small that it can fit inside an adult’s fist. The heart is a pumping organ which pumps the blood. The human heart is composed of four chambers, viz. right auricle, right ventricle, left auricle and left ventricle.

Systole: Contraction of cardiac muscles is called systole.

Diastole: Relaxation of cardiac muscles is called diastole.

Arteries: These are thick-walled blood vessels which carry oxygenated blood from the heart to different organs. Pulmonary arteries are exceptions because they carry deoxygenated blood from the heart to lungs; where oxygenation of blood takes place.

Veins: These are thin-walled blood vessels which carry deoxygenated blood from different organs to the heart. Pulmonary veins are exceptions because they carry oxygenated blood from lungs to the heart. Valves are present in veins to prevent backflow of blood.

Capillaries: These are the blood vessels which have single-celled walls.

Blood: Blood is a connective tissue which plays the role of the carrier for various substances in the body. Blood is composed of plasma, blood cells and platelets.

Blood Plasma: Blood plasma is a pale coloured liquid which is mostly composed of water. Blood plasma forms the matrix of blood.

Blood Cells: There are two types of blood cells, viz. Red Blood Cells (RBCs) and White Blood Cells (WBCs).

Red Blood Corpuscles (RBCs): These are of red colour because of the presence of haemoglobin which is a pigment. Haemoglobin readily combines with oxygen and carbon dioxide. The transport of oxygen happens through haemoglobin. Some part of carbon dioxide is also transported through haemoglobin.

White Blood Corpuscles (WBCs): These are of pale white colour. They play important role in the immunity.

Platelets: Platelets are responsible for blood coagulation. Blood coagulation is a defense mechanism which prevents excess loss of blood; in case of an injury.

Lymph: Lymph is similar to blood but RBCs are absent in lymph. Lymph is formed from the fluid which leaks from blood capillaries and goes to the intercellular spaces in the tissues. This fluid is collected through lymph vessels and finally returns to the blood capillaries. Lymph also plays an important role in the immune system.

Double Circulation: In the human heart, blood passes through the heart twice in one cardiac cycle. This type of circulation is called double circulation. One complete heart beat in which all the chambers of the heart contract and relax once is called cardiac cycle. The heart beats about 72 times per minute in a normal adult. In one cardiac cycle, the heart pumps out 70 mL blood and thus about 4900 mL blood in a minute. Double circulation ensures complete segregation of oxygenated and deoxygenated blood which is necessary for optimum energy production in warm-blooded animals.

Circulation of Blood through the heart:

Systemic Vein ⇨ Sinus Venosus ⇨ Right Auricle ⇨ Right Ventricle ⇨ Pulmonary Artery ⇨ Lungs ⇨ Pulmonary Vein ⇨ Left Auricle ⇨ Left Ventricle ⇨ Truncus Arteriosus ⇨ Systemic Circulation

Excretion

Removal of harmful waste from the body is called excretion. Many wastes are produced during various metabolic activities. These need to be removed in time because their accumulation in the body can be harmful and even lethal for an organism.

The human excretory system is composed of a pair of kidneys. A tube; called ureter; comes out of each kidney and goes to the urinary bladder. Urine is collected in the urinary bladder, from where it is expelled out through urethra as and when required.

 

Kidney: Kidney is a bean-shaped organ which lies near the vertebral column in the abdominal cavity. The kidney is composed of many filtering units; called nephrons. Nephron is called the functional unit of kidney.

Nephron: It is composed of a tangled mess of tubes and a filtering part; called glomerulus. Glomerulus is a network of blood capillaries to which renal artery is attached. The artery which takes blood to the glomerulus is called afferent arteriole and the one receiving blood from the glomerulus is called efferent arteriole. Glomerulus is enclosed in a capsule like portion; called Bowman’s capsule. The Bowman’s capsule extends into a fine tube which is highly coiled. Tubes from various nephrons converge into collecting duct; which finally goes to the ureter.

Filtration in Glomerulus: Filtration happens because of very high pressure inside the glomerulus. The lumen of efferent arteriole is smaller than that of afferent arteriole. Due to this, the blood entering the glomerulus experiences very high pressure and due to this, the waste products are filtered out through the thin membrane of capillaries in the glomerulus. The filtered blood is sent to the systemic circulation through efferent arteriole and the filtrate goes to the Bowman’s capsule. That is how urine is formed inside the kidneys. Reabsorption of water and some other filtrates takes place in the tubular part of the nephron. This increases the concentration of urine. The human urine is mainly composed of water and urea.