Comparing Organ Systems of Humans & Other Animals

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  • 0:03 Comparing Humans &…
  • 0:55 The Cardiovascular System
  • 2:25 The Respiratory System
  • 3:43 The Digestive System
  • 4:57 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov
In this lesson, you're going to learn that in some ways humans are just like any other animal, and in other ways we are quite unique. We will compare the cardiovascular, respiratory, and digestive systems of many animals.

Comparing Humans & Other Animals

We like to think of ourselves as special, but we're not. But we are. We're both. We are special in many ways and completely ordinary in other ways. On the most fundamental of levels, we share a lot of similarities with all sorts of other animals. This includes many of the anatomical structures and physiological functions of our organ systems. An organ system is a network of individual organs that work with each other for a single purpose in the body. Examples of organ systems include the cardiovascular, respiratory, and digestive systems. Of course, there are important differences, all depending on which animals we're talking about. This lesson is going to do just that. It will show you how similar we are to animals and how different animals can be when it comes to just three of the many organ systems of our body.

The Cardiovascular System

The cardiovascular system is the one that includes the heart (cardio-) and blood vessels (-vascular) of the body.

Let's start with this system. The human heart is made up of four large chambers called the atria and ventricles. There are two of each. Your pet dog, cat, and horse also have two atria and two ventricles. If you have a parrot, he or she also has two atria and two ventricles. In this way, we are all the same, and no one animal is any more special than another.

Of course, this lesson is about the flip side, too. Not all animals have two atria and two ventricles, and not all hearts work the same way. Do you have a pet fish? Well, that little one has only one atrium and only one ventricle. Do you have a pet snake? That snake, depending on what kind it is, may have two atria and only one ventricle. Maybe you keep worms for a living. These guys don't even have atria or ventricles. They rely mainly on a few blood vessels and muscular tubes to function as a heart-like mechanism. Thus, the structure of the heart can, and does vary, among animals.

The function of the heart can vary among animals, too. Humans and dogs, for example, have hearts that pump in one direction only. They pump blood that was oxygenated in the lungs into the body. However, there is a marine animal called a tunicate that can stop its heart and pump in the reverse direction. If our hearts stopped, we'd be dead!

The Respiratory System

I just mentioned the lungs a second ago. The lungs are the major part of the respiratory system, the system that helps you breathe in life-giving oxygen and breathe out waste gases like carbon dioxide. What animals have lungs? Humans have lungs, cows have lungs, and whales have lungs along with many others.

However, not all animals use lungs to breathe. Fish use gills to breathe. However, not all fish use, or have to use gills. Here's what I mean. There's a fish called the lungfish. Are you catching on here? These are fish which, unlike most species of fish, have primitive lungs in addition to gills. Additionally, the mudskipper is a fish that can absorb air through its skin if it needs to. That actually reminds me that, at least in this way, it's fairly close to the earthworm, which is an animal that also breathes through its skin.

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