On a Beach Walk: #71 (Homeostasis)

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I like walking the beach. It’s good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

Recently thinking about balance caused me to wonder toward a related word – a very important biological concept. A word that is often mentioned and defined in biology textbook’s Chapter 1 or 2 as an important term – then seldom resurfacing. Teachers knowing its importance will regularly reinforce the concept throughout the course. Textbooks stressing this important concept are rare, therefore outside the mainstream.

The word – homeostasis – isn’t one that pops into everyday conversation. We don’t hear it on the news broadcasts or read it in news articles. Homeostasis has probably appeared as a Jeopardy answer in the form of a question, but doubtfully as a full category.

Homeostasis is that word that many do not know, but one that people know examples while not associating the examples to the word. Homeostasis has to do with balance, but not in the same sense as the actions when trying to walk a railroad track or balance beam.

Although our body is constantly producing heat, homeostasis is that mechanism keeping our body temperature relatively the same by releasing heat. If the body temperature lowers, a homeostasis mechanism adjusts to keep heat in and possibly produce more heat. After all, have you ever shivered?

Because reptiles don’t have an automatic mechanism to regulate body temperature, they adjust by responding with behaviors –  sunning on a rock to increase body temperature, or seeking  cool shade or a hole in the ground to keep the body from overheating.

In order to maintain a body temperature, the organism must have senses to detect external and internal temperature, plus ways to transmit those information/signals to bring about a response to maintain the balance – that’s homeostasis.

We take in water – most commonly through food and beverages. Our cells also constantly produce water. Our blood, over 50% water, continuously passes through our kidneys, which constantly removes water from the blood so it is released from the body as the key ingredient in urine. That’s homeostasis.

Water moving in and out of our body – yet, a mechanism is in place to keep the water level within us relatively constant. Making us thirsty when necessary – retaining water when needed – eliminating the excess if necessary. That’s homeostasis.

Many cells have water continuously entering, yet they don’t explode from over-swelling because of a mechanism for removing water is in place. That’s homeostasis.

Plants take in water through their roots, but also release water through their leaves – so plants must have a mechanism for regulating the two. Who would have imagined a similarity our kidneys have with plants – That’s homeostasis.

All living things require constant energy to survive, and regardless if caught, prepared, or made themselves, that energy comes from food – That’s homeostasis.

Our cells are constantly using food from the blood to make the energy required to sustain life. After we eat, our digestive system prepares the food so cells can use it. The final products of digestion move into the blood from transport to the cells for their use or to storage cells for later use. Insulin plays an important role in maintaining the sugar level in the blood – that’s homeostasis.

Living things have many examples of homeostasis, and maintaining body temperature and water and food levels are a few examples – but there are many others.

Yes – homeostasis is an important concept in biology and in life because it is important to all living things – birds, fish, reptiles, amphibians, mammals, single cells, insects, worms, sponges, jellyfish, clams, crabs, plants, and more – all living things.

My teacher side came out for this walk – but maybe my thoughts have given you something to think about. After all, I like walking the beach is good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

32 thoughts on “On a Beach Walk: #71 (Homeostasis)

  1. You have really good, clear descriptors describing homeostasis Frank. This was a great read! As usual I enjoyed following your thoughts as you wander the beach, though admit my thoughts are never so learned as yours when there is sand between my toes 🙂

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    • Pauline,
      Thanks for the kind words. Knowing your background, saying that it is has “really good clear descriptors” means a lot. Homeostasis is such an important word in biology – even more so at the conceptual level – yet it remains a word I don’t I’ve ever encountered outside the teaching world. Thanks for the kind words.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. That, my friend is such a beautiful post. I love your theme but if I may, let me add one more example of counter Homeostatis! A blogging world without A Beach Walk, OITS, Concerts, Dance, Handbells and so much more. That’s lack of Homeostasis! 😉 Happy Monday, Frank! 🙂

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    • Marina,
      This makes me both smile and sad. Maybe I’ll think of it in terms of entropy – the normal state of things going toward disorder … that is my absence would do that .. move toward disorder …. but life must continually counter with restoring order, but that requires energy – therefore one of the main reasons organisms must get food. The classic example is a very clean, neat room (the starting point). It can get messy very quick .. messy being disorder … and the only way to return order is by expending energy. Can be done continuously – but still requiring energy. Hmmmmm …. another beach walk topic! 😉 … Oh … you just got a mini one. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. In my mind, homeostasis is perfect balance, that which equates with health. Not pertaining just to humans, but to every living thing under the sun. When homeostasis is interrupted or incomplete, that is when dis-ease enters the picture. How about pertaining homeostasis to humans respecting not only others of the human species but one step further, respecting All that on this planet, under this planet and above this planet? Now that is something I would love to see!! Great post, Frank!!

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    • AmyRose,
      As a conceptualist, I see connections across the living world, which (to me) relates to the commonalities that all living things have to each other – which would also bring out the similarities and differences, especially in the way they accomplish the balance task. Although I mentioned humans earlier, I think adding something about human health (toward the end) would enhance the walk. Thanks for the suggestion.

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      • Love the way you think, Frank! Yes all is connected …. in ways that we don’t understand but what hurts one hurts the all. What benefits one, benefits the all. I too see everything connected …. And the more I ponder upon this, the more intrigued I become. (smile)

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  5. Thanks for an interesting science lesson on a word that I’m sure I was aware of in 10th grade biology, but has long since been crowded out. You’ve brought it back though, so I’ll use it to say that afrankangle has had a homeostatic effect in stabilizing my attitude toward the world. You’ll be hard to replace!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Tim,
      I have no doubt it was in your HS biology class those many years ago. It was probably mention very early, such as one of the first two chapters. It’s a hugely important theme, but one that isn’t emphasized as much as it should be – hence the reason for the this walking topic.

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  6. My, how I will miss your beach walks Frank. They always feel like a catch up with an old friend, the feeling of homeostasis in a way, everything tending towards a state it should be. You are very knowledgeable about a lot of things and write about them in such an engaging way.

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  7. Pingback: Jo’s Monday walk : A sally through the salt marshes | restlessjo

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