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The excretory system is a passive biological system that removes excess, unnecessary materials from the body fluids of an organism, so as to help maintain internal chemical homeostasis and prevent damage to the body. The dual function of excretory systems is the elimination of the waste products of metabolism and to drain the body of used up and broken down components in a liquid and gaseous state. In humans and other amniotes (mammals, birds and reptiles) most of these substances leave the body as urine and to some degree exhalation, mammals also expel them through sweating.
Only the organs specifically used for the excretion are considered a part of the excretory system. In the narrow sense, the term refer to the urinary system. However, as excretion involves several functions that are only superficially related, it is not usually used in more formal classifications of anatomy or function.
As most healthy functioning organs produce metabolic and other wastes, the entire organism depends on the function of the system. Breaking down of one of more of the systems is a serious health condition, for example renal failure.
Parts and their functions
The kidneys are bean-shaped organs which are present on each side of the vertebral column in the abdominal cavity. Humans have two kidneys and each kidney is supplied with blood from the renal artery. The kidneys remove from the blood the nitrogenous wastes such as urea, as well as salts and excess water, and excrete them in the form of urine. This is done with the help of millions of nephrons present in the kidney. The filtrated blood is carried away from the kidneys by the renal vein (or kidney vein). The urine from the kidney is collected by the ureter (or excretory tubes), one from each kidney, and is passed to the urinary bladder. The urinary bladder collects and stores the urine until urination. The urine collected in the bladder is passed into the external environment from the body through an opening called the urethra.
The liver detoxifies and breaks down chemicals, poisons and other toxins that enter the body. For example, the liver transforms ammonia (which is poisonous) into urea in fish, amphibians and mammals, and into uric acid in birds and reptiles. Urea is filtered by the kidney into urine or through the gills in fish and tadpoles. Uric acid is paste-like and expelled as a semi-solid waste (the "white" in bird excrements). The liver also produces bile, and the body uses bile to break down fats into usable fats and unusable waste.
Invertebrates lack a liver, but most terrestrial groups, like insects, possesses a number of blind guts that serve the similar functions. Marine invertebrates do not need the ammonia conversion of the liver, as they can usually expel ammonia directly by diffusion through the skin.
After bile is produced in the liver, it is stored in the gall bladder. It is then secreted within the small intestine where it helps to break down ethanol, fats and other acidic wastes including ammonia, into harmless substances.
The large intestine's main function is to transport food particles through the body and expel the indigestible parts at the other end, but it also collects waste from throughout the body. The typical brown colour of mammal waste is due to billirubin, a breakdown product of normal heme catabolism. The lower part of the large intestine also extracts any remaining usable water and then removes solid waste. At about 10 feet long in humans, it transports the wastes through the tubes to be excreted.
In mammals. the skin excretes sweat through sweat glands throughout the body. The sweat, helped by salt, evaporates and helps to keep the body cool when it is warm. In amphibians, the lungs are very simple, and they lack the necessary means to the exhale like other tetrapods can. The moist, scale-less skin is therefore essential in helping to rid the blood of carbon dioxide (on the form of carbolic acid), and also allows for urea to be expelled through diffusion when submerged.
In small-bodied marine invertebrates, the skin is the most important excretory organ. That is particularly true for acoelomate groups like cnidarians, flatworms and nemerteans, who have no body cavities and hence no body fluid that can be drained or purified by nephrons, which is the reason acoelomate animals are thread-like (nemertans), flat (flatworms) or only consist of a thin layer of cells around a gelatinous non-cellular interior (cnidarians).
Like sweat glands, eccrine glands allow excess water to leave the body. The majority of eccerine glands are located mainly on the forehead, the bottoms of the feet, and the palms, although the glands are everywhere throughout the body. They help the body to maintain temperature control. Eccrine glands in the skin are unique to mammals.
Sweat glands in the skin secrete a fluid waste called sweat or perspiration; however, its primary functions are temperature control and pheromone release. Therefore, its role as a part of the excretory system is minimal. Sweating also maintains the level of salt in the body.
The kidney's primary function is the elimination of waste from the bloodstream by production of urine. They perform several homeostatic functions such as:-
- Maintain volume of extracellular fluid
- Maintain ionic balance in extracellular fluid
- Maintain pH and osmotic concentration of the extracellular fluid.
- Excrete toxic metabolic by-products such as urea, ammonia, and uric acid.
The way the kidneys do this is with nephrons. There are over 1 million nephrons in each kidney; these nephrons act as filters inside the kidneys. The kidneys filter needed materials and waste, the needed materials go back into the bloodstream, and unneeded materials becomes urine and is gotten rid of.
In some cases, excess wastes crystallize as kidney stones. They grow and can become painful irritants that may require surgery or ultrasound treatments. Some stones are small enough to be forced into the urethra.
Main article: Ureters
The ureters are muscular ducts that propel urine from the kidneys to the urinary bladder. In the human adult, the ureters are usually 25–30 cm (10–12 in) long. In humans, the ureters arise from the renal pelvis on the medial aspect of each kidney before descending towards the bladder on the front of the psoas major muscle. The ureters cross the pelvic brim near the bifurcation of the iliac arteries (which they run over). This "pelviureteric junction" is a common site for the impaction of kidney stones (the other being the uteterovesical valve). The ureters run posteriorly on the lateral walls of the pelvis. They then curve anteriormedially to enter the bladder through the back, at the vesicoureteric junction, running within the wall of the bladder for a few centimeters. The backflow of urine is prevented by valves known as ureterovesical valves. In the female, the ureters pass through the mesometrium on the way to the bladder.
The urinary bladder is the organ that collects waste excreted by the kidneys prior to disposal by urination. It is a hollow muscular, and distensible (or elastic) organ, and sits on the pelvic floor. Urine enters the bladder via the ureters and exits via the urethra.
Embryologically, the bladder is derived from the urogenital sinus, and it is initially continuous with the allantois. In human males, the base of the bladder lies between the rectum and the pubic symphysis. It is superior to the prostate, and separated from the rectum by the rectovesical excavation. In females, the bladder sits inferior to the uterus and anterior to the vagina. It is separated from the uterus by the vesicouterine excavation. In infants and young children, the urinary bladder is in the abdomen even when empty.
In anatomy, the (from Greek - ourethra) is a tube which connects the urinary bladder to the outside of the body. In humans, the urethra has an excretory function in both genders to pass.
Within the kidney, blood first passes through the afferent artery to the capillary formation called a glomerulus and is collected in the Bowman's capsule, which filters the blood from its contents—primarily food and wastes. After the filtration process, the blood then returns to collect the food nutrients it needs, while the wastes pass into the collecting duct, to the renal pelvis, and to the ureter, and are then secreted out of the body via the urinary bladder.
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