Homeostasis in Animals

Homeostasis in Animals
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  • 0:01 What Is Homeostasis in…
  • 1:11 Water Levels and…
  • 2:03 Energy Balance
  • 2:55 Temperature
  • 3:41 Acidity
  • 4:29 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: David Wood

David has taught Honors Physics, AP Physics, IB Physics and general science courses. He has a Masters in Education, and a Bachelors in Physics.

What is homeostasis in animals? How does it work? Learn about the various factors that must be kept consistent inside animals and how that happens. When you are through, test your new knowledge with a short quiz!

What Is Homeostasis in Animals?

The bodies of animals are super complex. They contain billions of cells of all different types that work together for a common cause. They contain not only many organs, but many organ systems: the digestive system, the respiratory system, the circulatory system, the nervous system, and the skeletal system. And, all those systems have to stay in balance with each other.

The balance inside the human body, and the body of every animal, is delicate. In the case of animals like humans, even a small change to the state inside of the body can be deadly. So to prevent this, animals have developed something called homeostasis.

Homeostasis is a state inside a system where variables are controlled so that the internal conditions stay the same over long periods of time. This includes controlling variables like temperature, pH (or acidity), water levels, presence of waste, salt and other electrolytes, and metabolism. All these things have to be maintained within a certain range for the animal to survive. In this lesson, we're going to talk about each of these things, why they're important, and how homeostasis is maintained.

Water Levels and Osmoregulation

Water levels in the bodies of animals are controlled by a process called osmoregulation. It also relates to the levels of salt and other electrolytes, because it involves water moving from areas of low salt concentration to areas with higher concentrations of salt. This movement is called osmosis. Basically, substances like to spread out. So, water will move to spread out in an area that has more salt and less water, and salts will spread out into an area with less salt and more water.

This balance is important because if blood and cells have different concentrations of salts, water will transfer either into the cell or out of the cell. The body can, therefore, cause water to enter a cell by increasing the salt concentration in it. As we supply the body with replacement water and salt, this process of osmoregulation spreads those resources around the body as needed.

Energy Balance

Energy balance is about keeping the same amount of energy inside the animal. This happens because of metabolism, or the process by which we burn food to create energy. The energy we absorb through food should be equal to the energy we use up by moving our bodies and creating heat plus the energy from the food that our bodies decide to store as fat. This comes from a law of physics called the law of conservation of energy, which says energy can neither be created nor destroyed; it can only move from one place to another. That means the energy we put into our bodies has to go somewhere.

The bodies of animals are able to control the flow of energy using neurological and chemical signals. Not only can they control how much of the food you eat is stored as fat, but they can send signals to the brain that cause you to feel hungry or full.

Temperature

Temperature is a very delicate example of homeostasis, especially for warm-blooded animals like humans. Warm-blooded animals need an almost constant body temperature. Even an internal change greater than 2°F is thought to trigger a fever or hypothermia.

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