Adrianne has a master's degree in cancer biology and has taught high school and college biology.
Dogs, cats, fish, plants, and humans are all examples of organisms. An organism is an individual living form. We often look at each other, as well as our pets, as being one single being. But have you ever been playing with your dog or cat and wondered how everything works inside of their bodies? Or maybe you heard a noise from inside your body and it made you wonder what was happening inside. It is important to know that each organism is made up of interactive organ systems, which are groups of organs that work together to accomplish a set of functions for the organism.
Organ System Collaboration
The interesting thing about organ systems is that none of them are able to complete their functions without the help of at least one other organ system. This is a lot of the reason why a problem in one organ system will cause problems to occur in other body systems. They are all interdependent on each other, meaning that they need each other in order to function. There are numerous examples of this interdependence throughout each type of organism.
Shoots and Roots
Let's start with plants since they only have two true organ systems, the root system and the shoot system. The root system includes every part of a plant that is located below the ground, and is composed of roots that grow further down into the ground and outward. The functions of the root system include securing the plant into the ground, storing food for the plant, and absorbing water and minerals.
The shoot system consists of all the parts that are above ground, such as stems, leaves, and flowers. The functions of the shoot system are to reproduce, transport materials, and carry out photosynthesis, the process of using sunlight to create food.
Sunlight is needed for photosynthesis, which the shoots can get on their own, but water is also needed. The roots absorb the water that the shoot system uses to make food. Once the food is made, the shoot system transports the food back down to the roots for them to store it for whenever the plant needs energy again. The root system also uses energy from the process of photosynthesis in order to absorb more water and minerals for the shoot system to use. Neither system would be able to do their part without the help of the other system.
Cardiovascular & Respiratory
Humans, like other animals, are a bit more complex than that because they have multiple organ systems. Two systems that work very closely together are our cardiovascular and respiratory systems. The cardiovascular system includes your heart and blood vessels, which function to remove deoxygenated blood from and return oxygenated blood throughout your body.
The respiratory system includes the nose and mouth, pharynx, larynx, trachea, bronchi, and lungs. They all work together to bring oxygen into and remove carbon dioxide from the lungs. This is done in order to make sure oxygen is available for every part of the body and that carbon dioxide does not build up in the body.
Do you see the connection yet? The blood vessels bring deoxygenated blood into the right side of the heart. Another set of blood vessels take blood from the right side of the heart to the lungs to drop off carbon dioxide and pick up oxygen. Blood vessels then take the blood to the left side of the heart. The heart then sends the oxygenated blood out to the body.
The lungs are not attached to the various parts of the body and the heart does not bring oxygen into the body. They need each other in order to accomplish the full function. Without this collaboration, oxygen would just sit in the lungs and never get out to the body and blood would circulate back out to the body without oxygen, eventually causing the organs of the body to die.
Cardiovascular, Digestive, Urinary
Even the process of making our pee is a collaborative effort. We already covered the parts of our cardiovascular system and how it completes the gas exchange with the respiratory system, but what about the other wastes that enter our blood from the organs of the body? Some of the wastes that enter our blood system are from the food that we eat. Food gets broken down into what the body needs and does not need by the digestive system. The digestive system includes the mouth, pharynx, esophagus, stomach, and small and large intestines. The small intestines remove extra minerals from food and drinks that are considered waste, along with excess water, and dumps them in the bloodstream.
This cannot stay in the blood forever and circulate continuously throughout the body or it will become toxic to the body. This is where the urinary system steps in. The urinary system consists of the kidneys, ureters, bladder, urethra, and urinary orifice. The function of this system is to excrete, or remove, excess water and minerals from the body in the form of urine. The waste has to get to the kidneys though in order for them to accomplish this function.
Blood vessels that are part of the cardiovascular system carry blood to the kidneys, where it passes through several tubules which complete the process of removing the waste and excess water from the blood. The cleaned blood is what continues the circulation process. The removed waste and excess water that are now in the kidneys pass through the ureters down to the bladder, where they will flow through the urethra on their way to exit the body through the urinary orifice. None of this would happen if all three systems were not working together.
Time to recap what we learned in this lesson. An organism is an individual living form. Organ systems are groups of organs that work together to accomplish a set of functions for the organism. Organ systems are interdependent, meaning they depend on each other in order to function.
Examples of interdependent organ systems include:
- The root system and shoot system of flowering plants: the shoot system gets the light for photosynthesis and transports food between the two systems. The root system supplies the water and stores energy for both systems.
- Human cardiovascular and respiratory systems: Deoxygenated blood flows from the heart to the lungs to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide and oxygenated blood returns to the heart to go out to the body.
- Cardiovascular, digestive, and urinary systems: Blood vessels carry blood containing excess water and waste from the digestive system that goes to the kidneys for it to be removed from the body as urine.
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