(Sample Material) IAS PRE GS Online Coaching : General Science - "The Excretory System"


Sample Material of Our Online Coaching Programme

Subject: General Science

Topic: The Excretory System


Cells produce water and carbon dioxide as by-products of metabolic breakdown of sugars, fats, and proteins. Chemical groups such as nitrogen, sulfur, and phosphorous must be stripped, from the large molecules to which they were formerly attached, as part of preparing themfor energy conversion. The continuous production of metabolic wastes establishes a steep concentration gradient across the plasma membrane, causing wastes to diffuse out of cells and into the extracellular fluid.

Single-celled organisms have most of their wastes diffuse out into the outside environment. Multicellular organisms, and animals in particular,must have a specialized organ system to concentrate and remove wastes from the interstinal fluid into the blood capillaries and eventually deposit thatmaterial at a collection point for removal entirely from the body.


Excretory systems regulate the chemical composition of body fluids by removing metabolic wastes and retaining the proper amounts of water, salts, and nutrients. Components of this systemin vertebrates include the kidneys, liver, lungs, and skin.

Not all animals use the same routes or excrete their wastes the same way as humans do. Excretion applies to metabolic waste products that cross a plasma membrane. Elimination is the removal of feces.


Nitrogen wastes are by product of protein metabolism. Amino groups are removed fromamino acids prior to energy conversion. The NH2 (amino group) combines with a hydrogen ion (proton) to form ammonia (NH3). Ammonia is very toxic and usually is excreted directly by marine animals. Terrestrial animals usually need to conserve water. Ammonia is converted to urea, a compound the body can tolerate at higher concentrations than ammonia.

Birds and insects secrete uric acid that they make through large energy expenditure but little water loss. Amphibians and mammals secrete urea that they form in their liver. Amino groups are turned into ammonia, which in turn is converted to urea, dumped into the blood and concentrated by the kidneys.


The excretory system is responsible for regulating water balance in various body fluids. Osmoregulation refers to the state aquatic animals are in: they are surrounded by freshwater and must constantly deal with the influx of water. Animals, such as crabs, have an internal salt concentration very similar to that of the surrounding ocean. Such animals are known as osmoconformers, as there is little water transport between the inside of the animal and the isotonic outside environment. Marincompositione vertebrates, however, have internal concentrations of salt that are about one-third of the surrounding seawater. They are said to be osmoregulators.

Osmoregu-lators face two problems: prevention of water loss from the body and prevention of salts diffusing into the body. Fish deal with this by passing water out of their tissues through their gills by osmosis and salt through their gills by active transport.

Cartilaginous fish have a greater salt concentration than seawater, causing water to move into the shark by osmosis; this water is used for excretion. Freshwater fishmust prevent water gain and salt loss. They do not drink water, and have their skin covered by a thin mucus. Water enters and leaves through the gills and the fish excretory system produces large amounts of dilute urine. Terrestrial animals use a variety of methods to reduce water loss: living in moist environments, developing impermeable body coverings, production of more concentrated urine. Water loss can be considerable: a person in a 100 degree F temperature loses 1 liter of water per hour.