Functional Significance of Respiration

What is Respiration?

The cell is the basic unit of life in our body. They carry out almost all the functions in the body such as nutrition, excretion, transport, and reproduction. To perform all these functions, cells require energy. This energy is provided by the food that we eat. The food has energy stored in it in the form of various macromolecules. This energy is released by the process of respiration. For respiration, we breathe in oxygen. The oxygen we inhale is transported to different parts of the body and ultimately the cells. Inside the cells, oxygen helps in the breakdown of food consequently releasing energy. This process of breakdown of food to obtain energy is known as cellular respiration.

Thus, to perform various activities energy is required. The energy is acquired by the process of respiration which is obtained by the breakdown of food.

Why Do We Respire?

We respire to live by obtaining energy and other necessary gases, heat, which are crucial for the survival of a being. Our body is in constant need of oxygen. It is the major element that brings about the breakdown of molecules. Inside the cells, the food is broken down into water and carbon dioxide with the help of oxygen.

  • When food is broken down in the presence of oxygen, the process is called aerobic respiration.

  • When the food is broken down in the body in the absence of oxygen, it is called anaerobic respiration.

During the process of manufacturing energy molecules- ATP, waste bi-products are generated within the cell. The gaseous waste generated during respiration is Carbon dioxide. This waste in the form of carbon dioxide is also expelled from the body by the process of respiration.

Respiratory Organs of the Animals

Humans have a specialized and highly developed organ system for respiration that comprises the lungs. But various other animals respire through various other respiratory organs, which we will discuss in detail.

Respiration is a process of exchanging gases and it remains similar in all organisms. Ode of respiration could be external or internal, or it may be aerobic or anaerobic. Following are the classes of organisms depending on their mode of respiration-

1. Respiration through Plasma Membrane

[Image will be Uploaded Soon]

All unicellular organisms respire through their plasma membrane. In these organisms, the exchange of gases takes place through the surface of the cell. They take in oxygen from the surrounding and give out carbon dioxide from the cell surface or the plasma membrane by the process of diffusion. 

Example- Amoeba


2. Respiration through Skin

[Image will be Uploaded Soon]

Tapeworms, earthworms, and leeches respire through their skin. The skin of Earthworms is very thin and moist and many blood cells are spread on this skin. These blood cells are also known as capillaries. These capillaries carry out the gaseous exchange. This is why earthworms die of suffocation when their skins dry up.


3. Respiration through Trachea

[Image will be Uploaded Soon]

In some insects, the transportation of gases or the gaseous exchange takes place with the help of special fine tubes called tracheae. Oxygen enters through spiracles into the tracheal tubes, diffuses into the body tissue, and reaches every cell in the body. Finally, the Carbon dioxide released from the cells goes into the tracheal tubes and comes out through spiracles. 

Examples- Cockroaches, grasshoppers, etc.


4. Respiration through Gills

[Image will be Uploaded Soon]

Most of the aquatic animals like fish and prawns breathe through special respiratory organs called gills. Gills are projections of the skin that contain blood vessels that help in the exchange of gases. They take up the oxygen dissolved in water. To carry out respiration, fishes gulp water through the mouth and pump it over the gills. Through the gill slits, water passes into the gill chamber and in each chamber, the water passes over the filaments. They absorb oxygen from the water and replace it with carbon dioxide.


5. Respiration in Amphibians

[Image will be Uploaded Soon]

Amphibians are peculiar organisms; they use more than one organ of respiration during their lifecycle. They have gills in their tadpole phase for respiration and as they mature, they respire through lungs as well as skin. 

Example- Frogs.


6. Respiration through Lungs

[Image will be Uploaded Soon]

Many mammals, amphibians, and birds respire through lungs. Lungs are air-filled sac-like structures in the chest cavity that are connected to the outside by a series of tubes and small openings.

Example- Humans, birds, monkeys, etc.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

 1. What Happens When We Respire?

When we breathe in or inhale, our diaphragms contract and move downward. This leads to an increase in the chest cavity. The air travels through large tubes in the lungs called bronchi. Bronchi branch off into many smaller tubes known as bronchioles. Tiny air sacs are present at the end of each bronchiole known as alveoli. The alveoli are covered with tiny blood vessels called capillaries. The oxygen we breathe is passed on to the blood in our body through these capillaries. From the capillaries, the oxygenated blood travels to the heart, where it's pumped out to the rest of the cells in the body. Waste generated in the process of respiration is exhaled out of the body. It follows the same path backward.

2. Why Do Body Cells Require Oxygen?

Body cells need oxygen to convert the nutrients in the body that we obtain through food into energy. Oxygen is an important element without which the chemical reactions leading to the synthesis of energy molecules will not take place. Hence it is a necessary component for the cell.

3. Why Do All Organisms Respire?

All living bodies are made up of single or multiple cells. The cell is the basic unit of life without which life cannot exist. Cells carry out various functions in the body but they require energy to function. This energy is derived from the process of respiration. Therefore, all organisms must respire. It is also an involuntary process that must occur on its own. Organisms can survive days without water and even weeks without food, but not a few minutes without breathing.