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Unity in Diversity.docx

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BIOL 370
Dinu Nesan

Unity in Diversity: A Perspective on the Methods, Contributions, and Future of Comparative Physiology Unique Attributes of the Comparative Approach - Comparative physiologists are fundamentally curious about “how animals work”, and study how natural variation allows organisms to function in the diverse habitat conditions they face - Physiological variation may be interspecific and acquired over many generations, or variation that occurs during the life span of the individual o Latter might occur through field acclimatization to new conditions, seasonal changes in the environment, or in controlled studies of laboratory acclimation - Success of comparative approach is marked by the emergence of a unity of principle from the study of diverse solutions to a common problem - History of comparative physiology reveals that natural variation has played two important and distinct roles in the development of the discipline o Intellectual core of the field o Focus of an exploratory spirit in comparative physiologists Success of the Comparative Approach - The proton and the development of our understanding of the ultimate cause of the pH variation observed among organisms with different body temperatures o Early decades of physiological pH value studies, emphasis focuses on the pH of blood of mammals with core temperatures near 37 degrees Celsius, arising the concept that ‘normal’ pH of organisms was near 7.4 o As new information was gathered on pH values of diverse ectothermic species, it became increasingly clear that the mammalian paradigm was correct only in a limited sense, that is, only for organisms with body temperatures near 37 degrees Celsius o Thus, a need for a new unifying principle arose that could explain the ultimate cause of temperature-dependent variation in pH o Alphastat hypothesis provided a precise mechanistic account of why it is important to conserve pH, at a value that favours a stable fractional dissociation state of histidine imidazole sidechains - Low molecule weight organic molecules (organic osmolytes) that constitute the bulk of osmotically active materials in cells of osmotically concentrated species o Discovered that four distinct groups of low-molecular-weight organic molecules were exploited in osmotically concentrated organisms: free amino acids and their derivates, methylammonium and methylsulfonium solutes, and urea o Unity underlying this diversity in organic osmolyte composition changed o
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