Excretion Systems

Free Response

Why might specialized organs have evolved for excretion of wastes?


The removal of wastes, which could otherwise be toxic to an organism, is extremely important for survival. Having organs that specialize in this process and that operate separately from other organs provides a measure of safety for the organism.

Explain two different excretory systems other than the kidneys.


(1) Microorganisms engulf food by endocytosis—the formation of vacuoles by involution of the cell membrane within the cells. The same vacuoles interact and exchange metabolites with the intracellular environment. Cellular wastes are excreted by exocytosis when the vacuoles merge with the cell membrane and excrete wastes into the environment. (2) Flatworms have an excretory system that consists of two tubules. The cells in the tubules are called flame cells; they have a cluster of cilia that propel waste matter down the tubules and out of the body. (3) Annelids have nephridia which have a tubule with cilia. Excretion occurs through a pore called the nephridiopore. Annelids have a system for tubular reabsorption by a capillary network before excretion. (4) Malpighian tubules are found in some species of arthropods. They are usually found in pairs, and the number of tubules varies with the species of insect. Malpighian tubules are convoluted, which increases their surface area, and they are lined with microvilli for reabsorption and maintenance of osmotic balance. Metabolic wastes like uric acid freely diffuse into the tubules. Potassium ion pumps line the tubules, which actively transport out K+ ions, and water follows to form urine. Water and electrolytes are reabsorbed when these organisms are faced with low-water environments, and uric acid is excreted as a thick paste or powder. By not dissolving wastes in water, these organisms conserve water.