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Metabolic wastes or excretes are substances left over from excretory processes, which cannot be used by the organism (they are surplus or have lethal effect), and must therefore be excreted. This includes nitrogen compounds, water, CO2, phosphates, sulfates, etc. Animals treat these compounds as excretes. Plants have chemical "machinery" which transforms some of them (primarily the nitrogen compounds) into useful substances, and it has been shown by Brian J. Ford that abscissa leaves also carry wastes away from the parent plant. In this way, Ford argues that the shed leaf acts as an excretory (an organ carrying away excretory products).
All the metabolic wastes are excreted in a form of water solutes through the excretory organs (nephridia, Malpighian tubules, kidneys), with the exception of CO2, which is excreted together with the water vapor throughout the lungs. The elimination of these compounds enables the chemical homeostasis of the organism.
Ammonia forms with the oxidation of amino groups (NH2), which are removed from the proteins when they convert into carbohydrates. It is a very toxic substance and only one nitrogen atom is removed with it. A lot of water is needed for the ammonia excretion. Thus, the marine organisms excrete ammonia directly in the water (aminothelic organisms), while the terrestrial (mainly amphibians and mammals) convert ammonia into urea, a process which occurs in the liver and kidney.
Urea is a less toxic compound than ammonia; two nitrogen atoms are eliminated through it and less water is needed for its excretion. Urea is a protein metabolism product at vertebrates and part of the invertebrates. These organisms are called ureothelic.
Uric acid is a protein metaporposis product of terrestrial invertebrates, birds and diapsids. Such animals are called uricothelic organisms. In humans and anthropoides, this acid is purine metabolism product. Uric acid is less toxic than ammonia or urea; it contains four nitrogen atoms and a small amount of water is needed for its excretion. Out of solute, it precipitates and forms crystals.
Water and gases
These compounds form during the catabolism of carbohydrates and lipids in condensation reactions, and in some other metabolic reactions of the amino acids. Oxygen is produced by plants and some bacteria in photosynthesis, while CO2 is a waste product of all animals and plants in darkness. Nitrogen gases are produced by denitrifying bacteria and as a waste product, and bacteria for decaying yield ammonia, as do most invertebrates and vertebrates. Water is the only liquid waste from animals and photosynthesizing plants in the dark.
Nitrates and nitrites are wastes produced by nitrifying bacteria, just as sulfur and sulfates are produced by sulfur bacteria. Insoluble iron waste can be made by iron bacteria by using soluble forms. In plants, resins, fats, waxes, and complex organic chemicals are ejected from plants, e.g., the latex from rubber trees and milkweeds. Solid waste products may be manufactured as organic pigments derived from breakdown of pigments like hemoglobin, and inorganic salts like carbonates, bicarbonates, and phosphate, whether in ionic or molecular form, are excreted as solids.
- "excretion." Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopaedia Britannica Ultimate Reference Suite. Chicago: Encyclopædia Britannica, 2010.