Osmoregulation

Osmoregulation is an essential concept within the topic of excretory product and their elimination. Having an idea regarding what is osmoregulation in biology will help you to understand how the body maintains osmotic balance to carry out vital life functions.

In earlier classes, you have learned that osmosis is a process by which water is diffused through membranes when there is osmotic pressure due to molecular imbalance on both sides of a membrane. 

Therefore, osmoregulation meaning refers to the process through which the body maintains and regulates fluid or osmotic balance across the membranes immersed in body fluids. This is done to preserve homeostasis regardless of external factors such as diet, fluid intake and temperature. 

Types of Osmoregulation

After having an idea about what is osmoregulation, you should also know that it is divided into two major types – osmoconformer and osmoregulator. 

Those organisms that strictly regulates their body osmolarity, and their overall internal conditions stays same despite the osmotic condition of external environment, are known as osmoregulator. Mostly freshwater and marine organisms fall under this category.

Osmoconformer are those that adapt their body’s osmolarity according to the outside environment. This may be done either actively or passively. Marine organisms are mostly osmoconformer.

What are Body Fluids?

Apart from knowing what is osmoregulation, you should also have an idea about body fluids. The organs and tissues in our body are immersed in fluids at a pre-set temperature, solute concentration, and PH level. 

These fluids consist of water, electrolytes, and non-electrolytes. A solute that breaks up into ions when they are dissolved into water is known as an electrolyte. On the other hand, a non-electrolyte is a solute that does not break when dissolved into water. Other fluids in our body include interstitial fluid (these are fluids found in between cells), cytosol in cells and blood plasma.

Osmoregulation in Human Beings

The body absorbs essential nutrients, water and electrolytes which are then transported to all parts. Then the excess water and waste are sent to kidneys for excretion, thereby enabling the body to maintain the overall osmotic balance. Thus, the body carries out the process of osmoregulation continuously to regulate osmotic pressure. 

Check out the osmoregulation diagram below to understand the process clearly

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Osmoregulation in Fishes

Besides knowing what osmoregulation is, you should keep in mind that the osmoregulation of bony marine and freshwater fishes is a bit different. In case of osmoregulation in freshwater fishes, they absorb salt through their gills vis mitochondria-rich cells. Water is diffused into their body which they excrete through diluted urine.

Osmoregulation in fish who live in seawater is a bit different than freshwater fishes. Since seawater is hypertonic or salty, fishes drink the water. They then discharge the additional salt into the water through their gills to maintain salt balance.

On the other hand, marine organisms who are invertebrates are osmoconformers. They adapt their body with the salty seawater and become isotonic. The salt content in cartilaginous fishes like sharks is similar to bony fishes. 

However, the mechanism of osmoregulation is a bit different. They become isotonic with seawater by storing within their body. In addition to that, their blood also contains trimethylamine oxide or TMAO. This component stabilises the protein which prevents it from becoming toxic.

The diagram below show the process of osmoregulation in freshwater fish:

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Osmoregulation in marine fishes

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Osmoregulation Process in Plants

You should also know what osmoregulation is in plants. Plants absorb essential nutrients and water from the soil with the help of their roots. They dispose of the excess water via stomata in leaves and stems. Plants which grow in dry areas store excess water in vacuoles of parenchyma tissues. Some of them also modify their leaves or stem to reduce water loss and adapt to harsher climates.

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FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. Define Osmoregulation?

Ans. The process through which the body maintains osmotic balance throughout membranes is known as osmoregulation. It is an essential biological function.

2. Osmoregulation is Carried Out by Which Organisms?

Ans. Osmoregulation is carried out by all living organisms. Both vertebrates and invertebrates depend on osmoregulation to maintain the overall functionality of their body. 

3. Why is Osmoregulation Necessary in Aquatic Organisms?

Ans. Osmoregulation is necessary for all organisms, including aquatic organisms, to maintain the body fluid balance to carry out essential bodily functions.