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Animals

Essay by   •  August 1, 2011  •  Essay  •  547 Words (3 Pages)  •  1,072 Views

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Animals are a major group of multicellular, eukaryotic organisms of the kingdom Animalia or Metazoa. Their body plan eventually becomes fixed as they develop, although some undergo a process of metamorphosis later on in their life. Most animals are motile, meaning they can move spontaneously and independently. All animals are also heterotrophs, meaning they must ingest other organisms or their products for sustenance.

Most known animal phyla appeared in the fossil record as marine species during the Cambrian explosion, about 542 million years ago.With a few exceptions, most notably the sponges (Phylum Porifera) and Placozoa, animals have bodies differentiated into separate tissues. These include muscles, which are able to contract and control locomotion, and nerve tissues, which send and process signals. Typically, there is also an internal digestive chamber, with one or two openings.[11] Animals with this sort of organization are called metazoans, or eumetazoans when the former is used for animals in general.[12]

All animals have eukaryotic cells, surrounded by a characteristic extracellular matrix composed of collagen and elastic glycoproteins.[13] This may be calcified to form structures like shells, bones, and spicules.[14] During development, it forms a relatively flexible framework[15] upon which cells can move about and be reorganized, making complex structures possible. In contrast, other multicellular organisms, like plants and fungi, have cells held in place by cell walls, and so develop by progressive growth.[11] Also, unique to animal cells are the following intercellular junctions: tight junctions, gap junctions, and desmosomes.[16]All animals are heterotrophs, meaning that they feed directly or indirectly on other living things.[28] They are often further subdivided into groups such as carnivores, herbivores, omnivores, and parasites.[29]

Predation is a biological interaction where a predator (a heterotroph that is hunting) feeds on its prey (the organism that is attacked).[30] Predators may or may not kill their prey prior to feeding on them, but the act of predation always results in the death of the prey.[31] The other main category of consumption is detritivory, the consumption of dead organic matter.[32] It can at times be difficult to separate the two feeding behaviours, for example, where parasitic species prey on a host organism and then lay their eggs on it for their offspring to feed on its decaying corpse. Selective pressures imposed on one another has led to an evolutionary arms race between prey and predator, resulting in various antipredator adaptations.[33]

Most animals feed indirectly from the energy of sunlight. Plants use this energy to convert sunlight into simple sugars using a process known as photosynthesis. Starting with the molecules carbon dioxide (CO2) and water (H2O), photosynthesis converts the energy of sunlight into chemical energy stored

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